Macon’s Russell Henley earned a return invitation to the Masters, winning a playoff to cap a wild final round in the Honda Classic.
Henley won his first tournament as a member of the PGA Tour last year in Hawaii to qualify for the 2013 Masters, but was without an invitation to Augusta this year until he won the Honda with a birdie on the first extra hole.
With his victory, Henley will join UGA teammate Harris English in the Masters field, along with former Bulldogs Chris Kirk and Bubba Watson.
Henley began the final round two strokes behind Rory McIlroy, and was paired with McIlroy, the 2012 Honda Classic champion, in the final group. Henley trailed by as many as four strokes on the front nine, but pulled even with McIlroy when he birdied the 13th hole at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and chipped in for a birdie on the 14th.
After hitting his tee shot in the water on the par-3 15th, the first hole of the daunting “Bear Trap,” and made double bogey, Henley’s hopes seemed dashed. But McIlroy made double bogey at 16 and bogey at 17 to give Henley a second chance.
Henley had an opportunity to win in regulation with a birdie at 18, but hit a poor chip and settled for par, while McIlroy missed a 13-footer for eagle that would have given him the victory.
McIlry, Henley, Ryan Palmer and Russell Knox returned to the 18th tee for a four-man playoff, with Henley ending it when he reached the par 5 in two and two-putted for birdie.
It was Henley’s fifth tour victory, as he also won three times on the Web.com Tour. His first victory came in Athens while he was a still a member of the UGA golf team. Henley won twice in 2012, both times in playoffs after he holed clutch putts on the 18th hole to keep his chances alive.