Curtis Strange sank a 30-foot birdie putt on the third hole of a playoff today to deny Calvin Peete his third title of the 1986 PGA Tour and win the $500,000 Houston Open.

After Strange made his putt, Peete, who had led or shared the lead through all four rounds, missed a 20-foot birdie try.

Strange started the day three strokes off the pace and ended it with the $90,000 first prize. It was the year's first victory for 1985's leading money winner and ninth of his career including the 1980 Houston Open. Peete, who never lost a playoff before, earned $54,000.

Strange and Peete went to the playoff with 72-hole totals of 274, 14 under par. Strange shot 66 today and Peete 69. Peete almost won it on the second extra hole, but his 20-foot birdie putt stopped at the lip.

Peete started the day tied at 205 with Tom Watson and Jay Haas.

Watson's approach shot on No. 18 went left into the trees, and his only chance to get into the playoff was to sink a 200-yard-plus shot for eagle. The ball rolled over the cup, he finished with a par on the hole, a round of 71 and a third-place 276. Haas closed 74 -- 279.

Strange charged into contention after he angrily broke his putter on the 13th hole Thursday and had to finish an even-par round of 72 putting with his pitching wedge.

He rallied for a pair of 68s Friday and Saturday. Today, his 15-foot birdie on No. 17 pulled him even with Peete for the first time.

"To come in here with a mediocre opening round and not playing very sharp and to be sitting here now is a helluva feeling," said Strange. " . . . I'm glad Calvin missed that last putt. I don't know if I could have played another hole or not."