Ian Poulter believes his best is yet to come after playing his way into the Masters. The Englishman needed a win at the Houston Open to advance into the year’s first major and duly delivered, making a 20-foot putt for birdie to get into a play-off and then capitalising on a Beau Hossler slip-up to win it.
It is all a far cry from last season when he thought he had lost his card in America before being handed a reprieve after a recalculation.
The win was his first in six years but Poulter is now fully focused on getting back to his best and earning a place at the Ryder Cup. He said: “It’s tough when you’re down, when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s not the first time I’ve gone through some roller-coasters. That’s as far down the world rankings as I’ve been.
“It’s not very good for your mental strength, but to reassess, to reform the team, Paul Dunkley, my agent, has done an incredible job... simplifying my life to get me back on track. The journey continues. I’ve had 19 good years on tour and I guess I’ve got another couple. There’s life in the old dog yet.”
With just one place up for grabs, only victory at the Golf Club of Houston was going to be enough for the Englishman to earn his right to play in the season’s first major after narrowly missing out through his world rankings position and a mix-up during the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play last week.
Poulter found himself 51st in this week’s world rankings, with the top 50 players receiving an invite to the Augusta National, which came two days after being informed that he had done enough to qualify ahead of his quarter-final in Mexico, only to be told ten minutes before his defeat to Kevin Kisner that he required another victory.
His chances of qualification looked slim when he carded a first round one-over par 73 to sit 123rd, but recovered to record a flawless eight-under on Friday and seven birdies on Saturday to share the lead with Hossler ahead of the final round.
Poulter went into a four-shot lead only to trail by one with three holes remaining, but holed out a 20-foot birdie putt at the last to extend the tournament. A steady par in the replayed 18th was enough to seal the title after Hossler twice found bunkers.