HOUSTON (AFP) - Ian Poulter dramatically earned the final Masters invitation, defeating American tour rookie Beau Hossler at the first extra play-off hole to capture the Houston Open on Sunday (April 1).
The Briton now joins a Masters field of 87 competitors, returning to Augusta National for the first time since 2016, with his appearance making amends after falling short a week ago in trying to qualify for the year's first Major championship.
"I had to dig deep today and I am delighted with the way I played and how I've managed to come behind to win," he said.
Poulter, 42, had been three shots clear of his 23-year-old rival standing on the 11th tee but then found himself one behind when Hossler birdied four holes in succession from the 11th to move one shot clear at 19 under.
He then drew on his enormous Ryder Cup experience to hole a 20-foot birdie putt at the 72nd green to tie Hossler's score of five-under 67 and for both to finish on 19-under 269 to send the event into extra holes.
Hossler then handed Poulter his first victory since 2012 in finding a fairway bunker with his drive and then sending his second into the water, eventually taking a triple-bogey seven to Poulter's victory par.
"I had a good read on my putt on the final green in regulation as Beau's putt was on much the same line and I knew it was going to break a fraction right and it did, so I rolled it in at the right time," said Poulter.
The firebrand English golfer drew on his Austin disappointment a week ago when he missed out on a Masters' berth by just .0302 of a World Ranking point. He then lost his afternoon quarter-final encounter in Austin to move to world No. 51.
Poulter has used both his anger and "Ryder Cup-like" determination to now head to Augusta National.
"Last week was painful and to come here this week I was tired and I was frustrated on Thursday and I did not play my best stuff and I had packed my bags to leave on Friday," he said.
"Thanks to a mental switch I said to myself 'let's go and play golf and see what happens.'
"So, to come out on Friday and shoot eight under and then five under on Saturday while today I was patient and I waited my time.
"This is just amazing as I haven't won a stroke-play event in the States. To have done it in this fashion is amazing."
The win is Poulter's 17th career victory but only his third on the PGA Tour after two earlier WGC victories. It is a first anywhere since capturing his 2012 WGC-HSBC Champions win in Shanghai.
Also, Poulter is the first PGA Tour winner in 35 years to come from 123rd after the first round, and win.
Three-time Major champion Jordan Spieth gave his Masters goal a huge boost with a closing 66 to share third place with Argentina's Emiliano Grillo (68).