John Senden watches a shot during his final round. Photo: AFP
Australia's charge at next month's US Masters is getting stronger by the week, with 42-year-old journeyman John Senden adding his name to the list of contenders.
Less than a month after Jason Day's momentous victory at the World Match Play Championship, Senden continued the success of Australian players on the US PGA Tour this season with his own landmark victory at the Valspar Championship.
The victory - his first since 2006 - not only earned Senden $1 million prizemoney and helped bury the demons that had built up over the past eight years, it also booked the Queenslander a spot at this year's Masters at Augusta, where Adam Scott will defend his green jacket.
With Scott (No.2) and Day (No.4) at the peak of their powers ranked inside the top-four players in the world - and fellow Aussies Marc Leishman and young gun amateur Oliver Goss also in the field - many felt Australia was already in its best position for a long time to crown a second major champion in successive years, and propel the sport into a golden age not seen since the Greg Norman era.
Yet Senden's triumph in Florida means Australia now has another player with a legitimate chance of going all the way, either at Augusta or at the US PGA Championship later in the year, given the renowned ball striker was able to call on the hard work put into his short game when it mattered most down the stretch.
Senden entered the famed Snake Pit (the final three holes at Innisbrook Resort) tied in the lead with Americans Kevin Na and Scott Langley, but came through with two birdies - including a ''magic'' chip-in on the 16th - to close with a one-under-par round of 70 and finish seven-under overall, one shot ahead of Na.
Most important, Senden said the victory gave him belief that his short game - considered the main roadblock between him and more victories - was good enough to compete at Augusta National.
Overlooked in Scott's win at last year's Masters, and high placings from Leishman and Day, was the fact Senden had a putt on the back nine during the third round to take the lead.
''Augusta is one of the greatest tournaments ever and to get back there again this year will be fantastic. It's amazing,'' said Senden, who had played 205 US tour events, with four runner-up finishes, since his last win at the 2006 John Deere Classic. ''It's just a dream come true to get back there again and other big tournaments coming up.
''I can reset the schedule a little bit more and keep believing that I can produce this form to give myself a chance at the ultimate dream of winning a major championship.''
Senden is projected to climb back to No.58 in the world rankings, after slipping to No.123 in the wake of an injury-affected 2013.