Golf - Bryan beats Donald by one stroke at Heritage

(Reuters) - Augusta resident Wesley Bryan watched last week’s Masters from outside the ropes, but he will be playing there next year after winning the RBC Heritage in South Carolina on Sunday.

Bryan, the top player on the secondary Tour last year, showed that he belongs on the big stage when he carded a closing four-under 67 to earn his first victory on the PGA Tour, one stroke ahead of Englishman Luke Donald.

Bryan finished at 13-under-par 271 on the Harbour Town course on Hilton Head Island to become the first South Carolina-born player to win the event since it began in 1969, when Arnold Palmer won the inaugural event.

Among the rewards is an invitation to next year’s Masters, which he did not qualify for this year.

“Coming into the year I wanted to win before Augusta,” Bryan told the CBS telecast. “I wanted to tee it up there but I guess the week after Augusta is not too bad. I'm going to remember this for a long time.”

Bryan was part of the gallery for the first round of the Masters, which was played in howling winds at Augusta National.

“I went out and watched my buddy Russell Henley for a bit,” Bryan, 27, said. “I wanted to see how it played in those conditions. I soaked it up, the fan experience.

“Next time I’ll be inside the ropes. I get to sleep in my own bed and tee it up.”

Bryan remained calm on Sunday except for one brief moment on the 17th tee when he suddenly realised victory was within his grasp.

“I threw up a little bit in my mouth (and thought) 'I guess this is what nervous feels like' but then I was able to get it back together,” he said.

“I feel like I was missing greens and scrambling the last two or three days and still was able to muster up a good score out of it.”

“I got a little bit lucky. The leaders kind of stalled out and I was able to make a couple (of birdies) on the back nine and catch them.”

Former world number one Donald, meanwhile, had to settle for his fifth runner-up finish on a course that suits his precision game.

Third round leader Jason Dufner faded with a 76 to tie for 11th, five strokes off the pace.

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Gene Cherry)