Poulter books final Masters spot with win in Houston

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Ian Poulter overcame last week's disappointment to claim the final spot to the Masters with a play-off win over Beau Hossler at the Houston Open. 

At the WGC Dell Match Play last week, Poulter was told he had done enough to make it inside the World's top 50 and gain an invitation to the Masters. It then transpired there had been a calculation error and he would have to defeat Kevin Kisner to make that happen. He lost 8&6, and wound up No. 51 in the World rankings -  meaning his only chance at qualification was to win the Houston Open. 

He wasn't even sure if he was going to play. And after a first round 73 that put him in 123rd place, Poulter had his bags packed in his hotel room waiting to head home after round two. 

"I was a little warm under the collar," Poulter said, admitting the error continued to affect him during Thursday's round. "Some people getting in my head space, which is never good."

"I was kind of forcing things, trying to force my way into [the Masters]. Didn't work, had to rethink it, had to blow the cobwebs out Thursday night and reset and go again."

Instead, he posted a 64 to put himself right back in to contention. A 65 on Saturday gave him the 54-hole lead, and a Sunday battle between him and Beau Hossler left him needing to hole a good 18 foot birdie putt to make it in to the play-off. 

The postman delivered, and the 42-year-old thumped his fists against his chest in a moment that felt like we were watching a Ryder Cup match, apt as he was using the same putter he used at Medinah during Europe's famous come-back victory. 

Hossler, who had made four-straight birdies to gain the lead going down 18, opened the door for Poulter on the first hole of sudden death. He drove it in to the bunker, left his second in the greenside bunker, and put his third shot in to the water. Meanwhile, Poulter found the green in regulation and needed just a two-putt par to take the win and seal his first ever PGA Tour strokeplay victory, with the added bonus of booking his spot to Augusta National.

"I wanted to win this week. Last week was a big disappointment, as well as I played and not quite getting it done."

"I came here with a mindset of being super-aggressive - I was probably a bit too aggressive, a bit angry on Thursday - but I settled back down Friday, Saturday, Sunday and it truly is amazing to get this done today."

It's been an incredible turn around for Poulter, who just a year ago was playing on a Major Medical Extension and looked to have lost his tour card. It wasn't until fellow PGA Tour player Brian Gay worked out an error meant both he and Poulter did have enough points to retain their cards, and it spurred the Englishman on to a new form, almost immediately finishing runner-up to Si Woo Kim at The Players Championship in May.  

"It's been a long road the last couple of years with injury, questioning whether I've got a PGA TOUR card or not, and then obviously having some form and not quite finishing off in the past," Poulter said.

"That's as low as I've ever been. That's as far down the world rankings as I've been. Questioning whether you've got a card or not isn't very good for your mental strength."

A year later, Poulter is now ranked No. 29 in the World, has his first victory in six years, his sights set on a Ryder Cup return, and instead of doing punditry for Sky Sports at Augsuta this week, he'll be playing. 

"Disappointment kicks in at some stages," Poulter said. "But you know what? At times you have to dig deep. When you want something bad enough, then you have to go right down to the bottom and grab hold of what you can and come back up."

Instead of donning a headset for Sky Sports next week at Augusta, Poulter will tote his clubs to play in his 13th Masters Tournament. It's moments like these that have Poulter excited about making the most of his second act.

"The journey continues," Poulter said. "I've had 19 good years on TOUR and I guess I've got another couple coming. So there's life in the old dog yet."