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Playoff loss aside, Wagner looking to ride his 'wave'

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HUMBLE, Texas – Johnson Wagner punched his ticket to the Masters seven years ago by capturing the Shell Houston Open for his first victory. This time around, his effort for a dramatic repeat performance came up just short.

Wagner had a clutch par save on the 71st hole, then galloped across the 18th green after holing a lengthy birdie putt to force a playoff with J.B. Holmes and Jordan Spieth. After Spieth was eliminated on the first extra hole, Wagner three-putted his 20th hole of the day, missing a 6-foot par putt to hand the trophy to Holmes.

While Holmes and Spieth were already heading to Augusta National, Wagner needed to win to earn the tournament’s final invitation.

“Pretty disappointed right now,” Wagner said. “Had some daydreams of the Masters, obviously, but not this year.”

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Wagner has only conditional status this season, and he played this week on a sponsor exemption at a tournament that he considers one of his “majors.” The runner-up finish means his card is nearly secured for next season, and it rekindled a desire to return to the winner’s circle.

“I just want to win tournaments, I want to be on Ryder Cups. Everybody’s goal,” said Wagner, whose last win came at the 2012 Sony Open. “It’s nice to get in the hunt again, put myself in position.”

Wagner finished 150th in the FedEx Cup standings last season and had only one top-50 finish in seven prior starts this season. He attributed his recent struggles to a lack of on-course focus.

“I get lazy and I don’t practice and it’s just – golf is a cycle,” he said. “It’s like a wave, and I tend to not ride the highs long enough, and ride the lows for too long. I don’t know what it is, but hopefully this is a good start to a turnaround for me.”