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Casey masters America ahead of Augusta

  • Story Highlights
  • Paul Casey reaches career-high sixth in world after play-off triumph at Houston
  • Briton defeated JB Holmes at first sudden death hole for his first victory in U.S.
  • Swede Henrik Stenson, Fred Couples and Australia's Nick O'Hern tied for third
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(CNN) -- Paul Casey launches his Masters challenge at Augusta this week from a career-high sixth in the world after a play-off victory over American JB Holmes at the Houston Open on Sunday.

Casey will launch his Masters challenge from a career-high sixth in the world after a play-off win at Houston.

Casey will launch his Masters challenge from a career-high sixth in the world after a play-off win at Houston.

Casey, a nine-time winner on the European Tour, triumphed in the United States for the first time in 77 starts at the age of 31 when he took the title at the first sudden-death hole.

"It's really difficult to explain," an emotional Casey told NBC Television. "When you get introduced on the first tee here and you're playing with Geoff Ogilvy and they're going through all the accomplishments Geoff had had and I'm thinking 'come on, at least mention, you know, something'.

"But I hadn't done anything yet out here. This is the first win and it's fantastic."

The Briton had led by a stroke going to the last hole with Holmes having finished some two hours and 40 minutes earlier with a 69 to get to 11 under.

But after two-putting for bogey and a final-round, level-par 72 to finish on 11 under he went back to the 18th for a head-to-head with Holmes.

Mistakes from both in the approach meant Holmes got onto the green in four, and when he came up short with his 45-foot bogey putt Casey was left with two putts for victory from 28 feet. His first putt rolled up to within two feet and Casey holed out for victory.

"That was rough," Holmes said of his play-off tee shot which found the water. "It just wasn't to be this week and I hadn't set for a while but it just comes down to a bad shot."

In failing to win Holmes also missed out on a spot at Augusta. "That's frustrating," he said, "but there'll be more."

US veteran and former Masters champion Fred Couples had led the tournament at 12 under for much of the final round before bogeying the final three holes to finish with a 74 at nine under par.

Swede Henrik Stenson tied with Couples and Australia's Nick O'Hern for third place following a closing 70 with Australian Geoff Ogilvy in a five-way tie for sixth place at eight under alongside Americans Tommy Armour III, Jason Bohn, Mahan and John Mallinger.

Casey had been one of six co-leaders at 11 under par when the third round was completed early on Sunday, with 19 players within three shots of the lead and victory saw him climb six places in the rankings.

He began the year 41st and without a win for almost two years, but so far in 2009 has lifted titles in Abu Dhabi and now the U.S. and he also reached the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play in Arizona.

Tiger Woods retains the number one spot for a 200th successive week, making it a total of 542 weeks in his career.

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