Poulter secured the last place in the field at Augusta National by virtue of his dramatic victory in the Shell Houston Open on Sunday, making a birdie on the 72nd hole before beating Beau Hossler in a play-off.
The 42-year-old then spent a day at home in Orlando before travelling to Augusta on Tuesday, where he was the 85th player in the 87-man field to officially register for the year’s first major.
Poulter, who has missed just one cut in his previous 12 Masters starts, said: “Thirteen is an unlucky number but I don’t feel it is after I’ve made it in.
“I’m the least prepared as I’ve ever been but I need to stay fresh because I know this golf course very well. I love this place.
“I’ve had success here, obviously not with the green jacket, but I’ve had success shooting 67, 67 over a weekend (to finish sixth in 2015), and I’ve got off to fast starts.
“I know I can play this golf course so it’s really about me managing my energy levels this week, staying patient and enjoying it for what it is. Last week I wasn’t supposed to be here and this week I am so I really need to enjoy what it means to get back here to play and see how we go.”
Poulter had packed his bags ahead of a possible missed cut in Houston following an opening 73, but stormed back to shoot rounds of 64, 65 and 67 to secure his first win since 2012 and a first stroke-play title in the United States.
“To watch the TV and see everyone play practice rounds, chipping and putting, and the excitement of Tiger (Woods) being back in form and all of that seemed a bit weird, but I’m here now,” Poulter added.
“I have zero expectations. I have never pitched up to the Masters on a Tuesday afternoon, I would never have done as little preparation as I’m about to do for this event.
“So as confident as I feel going into this week, I believe I’m unprepared, so let’s see if that works in my favour. Sometimes we’ve seen that in the past with players and it worked out well last week, so hopefully it can work out well this week.”
Having finally broken through for a first major title at the 2016 US Open, Johnson had gone from strength to strength, winning three straight tournaments and seizing the world number one ranking before arriving at Augusta National.
“I was about as confident as I’ve ever been,” Johnson says.
But he never made it to the first tee last year, after a mis-step on the stairs at his rented house in Augusta left him with a badly bruised back on the eve of the tournament.
This year, Johnson quipped in his deadpan style, his plan for Wednesday was to “take it really easy”.
But he admitted that having to sit out the first major of 2017 added an extra edge to his anticipation this week.
“Obviously I was playing very well, and it was very disappointing not to be able to play,” Johnson said. “This year’s a completely different year, and I’m really looking forward to coming into this year – especially missing last year.”
Johnson, 33, is still perched atop the world rankings – although Justin Thomas leads a trio of players who could supplant him this week.
He opened 2018 with a victory in the US PGA Tournament of Champions and finished tied for second at Pebble Beach, but he hasn’t been the juggernaut of 2017.
Nevertheless, Johnson says his confidence level remains high – a 9 1/2, perhaps, compared to 10 on a scale of 10 last year.
“Starting to swing it a lot better,” Johnson said. “Feeling a lot better on the golf course, for sure.”
A native of nearby Columbia, South Carolina, Johnson remembers watching the Masters as a boy. Now, he believes, he has the major championship know-how and enough experience of the Augusta National course to challenge for the green jacket.
“The more you play here, the more comfortable you get around this golf course,” said Johnson, who notched top-10 finishes in 2015 and 2016. “You know what tee shots and where to hit it and the flags and kind of how to attack the golf course.
“Then, I think just me as a golfer getting better throughout the whole game, just having more confidence, hitting it better, driving it better, doing everything a little bit better always helps around here.”
Bubba Watson will head to Augusta National as a strong contender for a third Masters title after thrashing Kevin Kisner 7&6 to win the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
After preventing Justin Thomas becoming world number one with a 3&2 victory over the US PGA champion in the semi-finals, Watson took ruthless advantage of a poor performance from Kisner to cruise to a second World Golf Championships title.
Kisner looked to be feeling the effects of needing 19 holes to beat Alex Noren in the other semi-final and bogeyed four holes in succession at Austin Country Club after Watson won the first with a birdie.
It took Watson missing from four feet for birdie on the sixth to stop the rot and until the 11th for Kisner to win a hole with a long-range birdie, but Watson’s birdie on the par-five 12th secured a comprehensive success.
Watson, who won the Masters in 2010 and 2012, told the Golf Channel: “It was one of those things. I got off to a hot start and just focused on golf.
“There were about four or five shots for the week where I wasn’t committed and kind of blanked out so that’s pretty good over 100 and something holes.”
What a performance!
— WGC-Dell Match Play (@DellMatchPlay) March 25, 2018
Thomas admitted the chance to become world number one had played heavily on his mind during his semi-final defeat to Watson.
With defending champion Dustin Johnson crashing out in the group stages, Thomas needed to reach the final to end Johnson’s 58-week reign and become the 21st number one since rankings began in 1986.
However, Watson fired two birdies and an eagle in the first six holes and although Thomas battled back to one down at the turn, Watson birdied the 10th and was gifted the 12th when Thomas found water with his approach.
“I haven’t had such a hard time not thinking about something so much,” Thomas said in quotes reported by the Golf Channel. “And that really sucked.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about it, to be perfectly honest. And I think you’re constantly getting questions about it with the media. But I need to be mentally stronger than that, and understand that it’s just a match.”