Ian Poulter knew on Tuesday night when he flew into Houston that to qualify for this week’s Masters Tournament, there was only one avenue available to him as the 51st-ranked player in the world: win.
Fast forward to Thursday evening following a 1-over par playing of his first 17 holes before darkness forced the opening round to be suspended and the Ryder Cup hero was packing his bags in anticipation of an early check-out and missed cut. Now juxtapose the emotions that had to go along with those scenarios with what Poulter was feeling Sunday evening after defeating 23-year-old Beau Hossler on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to punch his ticket to Augusta National.
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Poulter entered the final round of the Houston Open tied for the lead with Hossler, which meant a de facto match-play situation in the final group. Never having won a stroke play event on the PGA Tour, Poulter found himself in a familiar position with 18 holes to play.
“Last week was painful. To come here this week, I was tired, I was frustrated on Thursday, I didn’t play my best stuff, I had packed my bags obviously to leave on Friday,” Poulter said. “This is amazing. I haven’t won a stroke-play event in the United States. So to do it this week, after the disappointment of last week, to know I’m going to Augusta, to do it in true fashion is amazing.”
The victory turned out to be more dramatic than Poulter would have hoped. Through eight holes on Sunday, Poulter held a 3-stroke lead over Hossler and was likely more concerned about the charges being made from those back in the pack such as Jordan Spieth than he was from his playing partner. However, four straight birdies from Hossler from holes 12-15 solidified the tournament was a two horse race.
Hossler had a look for birdie on the 72nd hole from 30 feet to win, but it barely missed on the right side.
“I did think I made that putt on the last hole, but it hung out there,” Hossler said after the round. “Ian basically had the same putt, and there’s no way he’s going to miss it after watching my ball. I said yesterday I wanted to beat these guys at their best, and I think I saw Ian’s best today.”
Ian Poulter was tied for 123rd after the 1st round.
No player has won a PGA Tour event the last 35 years when 123rd or worse after the opening round.
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) March 31, 2018
Putting on a similar line and from some 10 feet closer needing to make it to force a playoff, Poulter answered the call.
Poulter punched his ticket to Augusta, where incidentally, he was planning to travel anyway as a broadcaster for SkySports. After the win, however, Poulter will compete and as he said following his win, “maybe there’s some life in this old dog yet.”
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