Poulter's big prize is final Augusta place

HOUSTON (Texas) • There must now be a clear and present danger of the Masters, which starts on Thursday, proving anti-climactic.

Briton Ian Poulter - a player utterly dejected when sharing 123rd place after the opening round of the Houston Open and who had earlier been wrongly informed he had qualified for the Masters before falling to a big defeat at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play event - is in the field.

A player, who needed to convert a birdie putt from 19 feet to prolong that Augusta dream, is a winner once again.

The circumstances of Poulter's triumph belied sceptical theories about golf's lack of appeal.

He strode to victory in Houston on Sunday, at the first play-off hole against rookie Beau Hossler, chasing his first PGA Tour win, in a manner that summed up his ferociously competitive attitude.

This marked his maiden strokeplay success on the Tour but the additional prize is what makes it special: Poulter will be afforded the 87th and final Masters spot.

"It is amazing, to get this done today to get me to Augusta is amazing," the Englishman said.

"My first strokeplay win in the (United) States, and to do it with the Masters on the line is unbelievable. Last week (at the Match Play) was painful and to come here this week, I was tired and frustrated.

"It's going to take a little while to sink in. I'm super excited. It's been a roller coaster the last couple of years to be honest, to be down where I was has been tough."

On what became an incredible Texas afternoon, Poulter provided a moment so in tune with his iconic Ryder Cup outings after a closing birdie to force extra holes, following identical five-under 67s for a 19-under 269 total. He needed only one as Hossler found a greenside bunker and then water.

Poulter's leaderboard recovery from Friday was statistically the best on the PGA Tour in 35 years.

And he will likely now move into the world's top 30, with a Ryder Cup appearance in France later this year suddenly highly likely.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2018, with the headline 'Poulter's big prize is final Augusta place'. Print Edition | Subscribe