Ian Poulter qualifies for Masters after Houston Open play-off victory
The Englishman needed to win the tournament to guarantee his place at Augusta.
Ian Poulter secured his place at the Masters after a nerveless play-off victory against American Beau Hossler at the Houston Open.
Poulter, who held a four-shot lead midway through the final round, trailed by one with three holes remaining after Hossler rattled in four successive birdies from the 12th, but the Englishman holed out a 20-foot birdie putt at the last to extend the tournament.
Hossler’s quest for his first PGA title ended in disaster after finding bunkers with his first two shots when replaying the 18th.
His third shot from a greenside bunker found water handing the initiative to Poulter, who kept his nerve to secure victory with a steady par.
With just one place up for grabs, only victory at the Golf Club of Houston would have been 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.
The 42-year-old found himself 51st in this week’s world rankings, with the top 50 players receiving an invite to 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 10 minutes before his defeat to Kevin Kisner that he required another victory.
Poulter’s chances of qualification looked slim when he carded a poor first round – where he hit a 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 before sealing his first title since the 2012 WGC-HSBC Champions.
A stunning shot from the fairway bunker on the second hole earned Poulter his first gain of the day when he dialled in to six feet to take the outright lead on 15-under par before landing an approach to three feet for a tap-in birdie at the fourth to move two shots clear.
Another great approach at the sixth yielded another birdie for Poulter to move three clear at 17-under par, before picking up another shot at the eighth, but he maintained his advantage at the top of the leaderboard following a Hossler gain at the same hole.
A bogey at the ninth dropped him back to 17 under as Jordan Spieth closed in to just two strokes behind after successive birdies from the 12th.
Poulter moved back to 18-under par with a gain at the 11th, but he could only keep his lead to two shots after Spieth and Emiliano Grillo picked up birdies.
Don't hold back, Ian Poulter.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 1, 2018
What a win. pic.twitter.com/H3Igv73zF6
However, Hossler surged ahead with his birdie frenzy from the 12th to move to 19-under par, as Poulter also missed the chance to pick up a shot at the 13th, and looked on course for his maiden PGA Tour crown until the Englishman’s last hole and play-off heroics.
The 42-year-old admits the victory will take some time to sink in after describing the last few years as a rollercoaster.
“It is amazing, to get this done today to get me to Augusta is amazing,” Poulter told Sky Sports.
“I’m going to have a good day’s rest tomorrow, I will not be venturing to Augusta until Tuesday.
“It’s going to take a little while to sink in. I’m super excited.
“It’s been a rollercoaster the last couple of years to be honest, to be down where I was has been tough.”
Argentinian Grillo bogeyed the last to finish alongside three-time major championship winner Spieth at 16 under, with American Sam Ryder one shot further adrift.
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson was tied for sixth with Keith Mitchell on 14-under par, while Ireland’s Paul Dunne was among six players to finish a further stroke away.