The Masters: Akshay Bhatia qualifies for Augusta National with nervy win at Texas Open; Rory McIlroy finishes third | Golf News

Akshay Bhatia fended off a birdie blitz from Denny McCarthy to secure the final spot at The Masters after completing a nerve-jangling wire-to-wire victory at the Valero Texas Open, with Rory McIlroy finishing an encouraging third in San Antonio.

Bhatia needed to win in Texas to earn an invite to Augusta National from Thursday and seemed poised to do that in routine fashion as he reached the turn six strokes clear of McCarthy.

However, McCarthy then reeled off eight birdies in nine holes, including on each of his last seven, to join Bhatia on 20 under par, coming home in 28 to sign for a nine-under 63 amid a masterclass on the greens which saw him tie the PGA Tour 72-hole record of just 92 putts.

Bhatia, though, secured victory on the first play-off hole with a birdie as McCarthy’s charge came to an end when he found the water with his third shot.

McCarthy – who had already qualified for The Masters by dint of his world ranking – threatened to win the event in regulation time when he curled in a 12-footer at 18, only for Bhatia to sink from a similar range under immense pressure to force sudden death.

The 22-year-old injured his shoulder celebrating his clutch putt and received treatment but that issue did not affect him in the play-off as he claimed his second PGA Tour victory, after the 2023 Barracuda Championship.

Watch Bhatia tee it up at The Masters, exclusively live on Sky Sports between April 11-14, with coverage of Thursday’s opening day getting under way at 2pm.

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Golfer Alexander Bjork was given a helping hand after his shot went into tree branches at the Valero Texas Open.

Bhatia, who began his final round with a four-shot advantage over McCarthy, birdied three of his first four holes to extend his lead and went out in a three-under 33.

The youngster then rebounded from a bogey at 10 with a birdie at 11 and picked up a further shot at 14 but was reeled in by McCarthy, whose scorching back nine included chipping in from off the green at 15.

McIlroy: I feel I’m in a better place

McIlroy, meanwhile, will make his 10th attempt at the career Grand Slam at The Masters as he looks to add the Green Jacket to his previous four major wins – the 2012 and 2014 PGA Championships, the 2011 US Open and 2014 Open Championship.

Rory McIlroy hits his drive on the 18th hole during the second round of the Texas Open
Rory McIlroy hits his drive on the 18th hole during the second round of the Texas Open

The world No 2 – who revealed last week that he sought the advice of Tiger Woods’ former coach Butch Harmon ahead of The Masters – shot a six-under, bogey-free 66 on Sunday to end on 11 under for the tournament, nine strokes behind Bhatia and McCarthy.

McIlroy birdied his second and third holes and then picked up three gains in four holes midway through his round, before a final birdie at 18.

The Northern Irishman said: “It was very solid. It was a second bogey-free round of the week, which is really pleasing compared to what it has been like. It was good to get a round like that under the belt heading into next week.

“I definitely feel like I’m in a better place than I was a few weeks ago. Through the Florida swing there was just a lot of volatility in my game – some good, some bad, quite a few big numbers.

“I’m always going to be able to hit good shots, it’s just how bad the bad ones are. This week the bad ones were still in play. I was able to scramble well enough when I did hit a few poor ones.

“To me next week is all about discipline, about staying in control of yourself and in control of what you can control. If I can do that well, then the rest will follow.”

When is The Masters on Sky Sports?

Wall-to-wall coverage from the tournament begins at 2pm over the first two rounds on Thursday April 11 and Friday April 12, with Featured Group action and regular updates from around the course available to enjoy on Sky Sports Golf until the global broadcast window begins at 8pm.

There will be lots of extra action throughout all four days via the red button on Sky Sports Golf, along with Sky Q and Sky Glass, providing plenty of bonus feeds and allowing you to follow players’ progress through various parts of Augusta’s famous layout.

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The Masters is upon us and you can watch all the tremendous action and intense drama from Augusta live on Sky Sports, from Thursday April 11 – Sunday April 14

The Masters is upon us and you can watch all the tremendous action and intense drama from Augusta live on Sky Sports, from Thursday April 11 to Sunday April 14

The notorious Amen Corner stream will also be available and focuses on the famous three-hole stretch from the 11th, while a feed of the fourth, fifth and sixth holes will go live each day as soon as the opening group reach that part of the course.

Another stream covering the 15th and 16th hole is also available for every round, while extended coverage of the weekend action begins at both 3pm on both Saturday April 13 and Sunday April 14.

Sky Sports Golf will show build-up content and occasional live updates from the course before the global broadcast window starts at 8pm for the third round and 7pm for the final day, with early action available throughout via the red button.

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