Bhatia heads to the Masters

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There was nothing stress-free about Akshay Bhatia’s victory at the 2024 Texas Open despite how most of the week looked. Kickstarting his week with a 9-under 63 on Thursday, the lengthy left hander went wire-to-wire at TPC San Antonio for a playoff victory over Denny McCarthy at 20 under. By doing so, Bhatia became the third youngest winner to go wire-to-wire on the PGA Tour since 1983 behind Rory McIlroy at the 2011 U.S. Open and Jordan Spieth at the 2015 Masters.

Speaking of the Masters, Bhatia’s victory marks his second in as many years, and it comes at a rather opportune time. Earning the final invitation into the 2024 Masters, the 22-year-old will drive down Magnolia Lane for the first time in his professional career and tee it up in only his second major championship. Bhatia’s Masters debut comes a decade after qualifying and playing in the first-ever Drive, Chip and Putt competition at Augusta National.

Not only has Bhatia earned his chance to vie for the green jacket next week, he has solidified his playing privileges on the PGA Tour through the 2026 season. Bhatia will tee it up at the PGA Championship as well as the remaining signature events on the PGA Tour schedule.

“I just stuck to my game plan,” Bhatia said. “I played great today. I kind of got the goal in mind today. Denny played unbelievable. You got to give him credit. It’s hard because he’s one of the best putters out here, and when you see him get hot, it’s scary. I had a six-shot lead going into the back nine, and then all of sudden, we are tied going into 18 and then of course he makes that putt. Man, what a crazy crazy day.”

Bhatia began the final round at TPC San Antonio in possession of a four-stroke lead — tying Jake Knapp for the largest 54-hole margin this season. The lead grew to five with a birdie immediately out the gate and was pushed to half a dozen when Bhatia added his third birdie of the round on No. 4.

McCarthy attempted to apply some pressure on the front, but it proved ineffective as Bhatia went to the inward half with his six-stroke lead still intact. A punch finally landed on No. 10 when McCarthy connected from distance for his second birdie of the day and Bhatia failed to get up-and-down from long of the green cutting his lead to four. The drama ensued from there.

After making par on the 11th, McCarthy went unconscious and left Bhatia defenseless. Birdie after birdie came from the blade of McCarthy as he rattled off six in a row and within a blink of an eye, Bhatia’s lead of six was cut to zero as the two men stood on the tee at the par-5 18th.Both facing roughly 12-foot birdie bids, both connected and unleashed fist pumps after both players reached 20 under — nine clear of McIlroy in third place. McCarthy’s final putt in regulation was his 92nd of the week tying a PGA Tour record for fewest amounts of putts in a tournament while Bhatia’s made waves for a completely different reason. 

Popping his shoulder out of his socket during his celebration, Bhatia called upon the services of his physiotherapist on the first playoff hole. With his ball in the fairway, Bhatia watched as McCarthy approached his third and chunked his wedge into the creek protecting the putting surface.

After getting his shoulder taped, Bhatia stepped to his and safely found the putting surface to all but secure his second PGA Tour victory and a trip to the Masters.

“This is awesome,” Bhatia said. “It’s hard to win out here as it showed today. My mom’s birthday was on April 1, and her wish was to get in the Masters. I’m hoping I make her proud.”


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