Kim wins Houston Open after playoff

By Andrew Both

HUMBLE, Texas (Reuters) - Anthony Kim ended a nearly two-year drought when he beat fellow American Vaughn Taylor in a playoff at the Houston Open on Sunday.

Kim, who started the final round tied for the lead, squandered the chance to win in regulation when he bogeyed the last hole after missing a six-foot par putt.

He carded 70 to tie Taylor, who birdied the last for 68, at 12-under-par 276 at Redstone.

Taylor, who needed to win to qualify for this week's U.S. Masters in his hometown of Augusta, made a mess of the first playoff hole, the par-four 18th, where Kim won with a par.

South African Charl Schwartzel (67) and Canadian Graham DeLaet (68) finished one stroke behind, tied for third.

It is the third win on the PGA Tour for 24-year-old Kim and a confidence-boosting tune-up for the Masters.

"It's been a very memorable week, maybe not all for great reasons," Kim told reporters.

"I was in some spots on the golf course I never thought I could possibly see, but I got out of those with pars and birdies this week and feel very confident going into next week.

Kim collected $1,044,000 for his third victory on the PGA Tour, after previously winning twice in 2008 had told NBC that he had a torn thumb ligament and may have to take time off after the Masters.

"At the beginning of the week, if you told me I was in a play-off, I don't know if I would have fully believed you, because I didn't know what I was expecting with my golf game.

"But I did a great job just staying patient, staying loose, and got the job done."

Taylor admitted that the occasion proved too much in the play-off.

"I made a great putt at the last, before the play-off," he told reporters. "I'm excited but hugely disappointed. It's a tough pill to swallow.

"If I had a little more time, maybe I could have gotten focused."

It was a quiet week for several of the Masters favorites, with Phil Mickelson finishing at two-under, Ireland's Padraig Harrington one-under and South Africa's Ernie Els on even par.

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)