Masterful performance sends Ian Poulter from Houston to Augusta

Apr 1, 2018; Humble, TX, USA; Ian Poulter of England celebrates after winning the Houston Open in a playoff during final round of the Houston Open golf tournament at Golf Club of Houston - The Tournament Course. Mandatory Credit: John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

Masterful performance sends Ian Poulter from Houston to Augusta

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Masterful performance sends Ian Poulter from Houston to Augusta

It was kind of sad, really, that Ian Poulter’s idea of an April Fool’s joke last year was tweeting about a late invitation to the Masters. He was not invited, the tweets were fake and he missed the golf tournament for the first time since 2006.

The joke was on Poulter when he was told last week that he had qualified for the Masters during the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. He hadn’t. The early projections were wrong, and the Brit who cried wolf was out of luck again after a quarterfinal loss to Kevin Kisner. Only a win at the Houston Open would get Poulter to Augusta National.

Then a funny thing happened. Poulter worked his way into contention at Golf Club of Houston and drilled a tough 19-foot birdie putt on the final hole to force a playoff with Beau Hossler.

Poulter made par on the first sudden-death hole as Hossler carded a triple-bogey 7. Poulter let out a blood-curdling scream and pounded his chest.

He’s heading to Augusta for real this time. And, after an opening-round 73, he made history by becoming the first player in 35 years to win a tournament having entered the second round at T-123 or worse.

“Last week was painful,” Poulter said. “(Coming) here this week I was tired, I was frustrated. On Thursday I didn’t play my best. I packed my bags to leave on Friday. … This is amazing. I haven’t won a stroke-play event in the States, so to do it this week after the disappointment of last week, to know I’m going to Augusta and to do it in true fashion is amazing.”

Poulter shot 19-under 269 for the week to catch Hossler, who held a one-shot lead going into the final hole of regulation. Two tentative swings from Hossler to start the playoff left him in a greenside bunker at 18, and he blasted a wedge over the green and into the water. That took him out of it with Poulter on the green in regulation and left the 23-year-old still searching for his first professional victory.

Jordan Spieth shot 6-under 66 in the final round and made a 29-footer on 18 to save par. He finished T-3 alongside Emiliano Grillo at 16 under for the week, his best result on Tour since a runner-up finish at the Dell Technologies Championship back in September.

Spieth had just two top-10 finishes in eight starts entering the week and gained some much-needed confidence entering the Masters.

“I’m very pleased with my 6 under,” Spieth said. “Goal accomplished for the week and I’ve made some big strides from my last couple of tournaments, so I’m very excited for what next week holds.”

Spieth had struggled on the greens for much of the year and missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the Valspar Championship. He didn’t putt very well to start the week in Houston but finally got a few to drop in the final round, including a 7-footer for eagle at the par-5 fourth hole.

“(Sunday) I was able to have pressure-packed putts where I was able to trust what I’d worked on at the beginning of the week,” Spieth said. “I’m just trying to nail it in the next few days and do a lot of speed control at Augusta, and start out putting a little better than the start of this week.”

Poulter entered Houston winless since 2012 and will have time to reflect on a whirlwind two weeks when he takes the drive down Magnolia Lane.

This time, he really earned it. Gwk

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