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Indian-American golfer Akshay Bhatia books Masters spot

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Indian-American golfer Akshay Bhatia etched his name into golfing history with a thrilling victory at the Valero Texas Open, securing a coveted spot in the upcoming Augusta Masters, his maiden appearance at a Major championship.

Bhatia’s triumph was nothing short of sensational as he navigated through a tense playoff against Denny McCarthy at the TPC San Antonio. Despite McCarthy’s late charge, which saw him birdie eight of the last nine holes, Bhatia held his nerve to emerge victorious.

“This is awesome,” exclaimed Bhatia, reflecting on the intense competition. “My mom’s birthday was April 1, and her wish was to go to the Masters.”

Starting the final day with a comfortable four-shot lead, Bhatia seemed poised for victory before McCarthy’s stunning back-nine rally leveled the scores at 20-under after 72 holes. Bhatia’s clutch 12-foot birdie on the final hole forced the playoff, where he demonstrated nerves of steel to secure a wire-to-wire victory with another birdie on the first extra hole.

The win not only earned Bhatia over USD 1.6 million but also secured his spot in the US Open and elevated him to No. 34 in the world rankings. Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy finished third, with McCarthy’s late surge pushing both players to their limits.

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In a dramatic twist during the playoff, Bhatia faced a shoulder issue but managed to overcome it, sealing victory with a birdie as McCarthy faltered with a water-bound shot.

Reflecting on the rollercoaster of emotions, Bhatia expressed gratitude for the medical assistance that helped him navigate the final moments of the playoff. His journey to this victory, including a previous win at the Barracuda Championship, showcased his resilience and determination.

Despite McCarthy’s previous Masters qualification, Bhatia’s win marks a significant milestone in his burgeoning career, fulfilling a promise made to his mother years ago and realizing a childhood dream of competing at Augusta.

Bhatia, who turned pro in 2019, had previously participated in the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals at the home of the Masters a decade ago.

With his name now etched in golfing lore, Bhatia’s remarkable victory at the Valero Texas Open serves as a testament to his talent and tenacity, setting the stage for what promises to be a memorable debut at the Augusta Masters.

(PTI)

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