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 mistake to win a play-off.
It is all a far cry from last season when the 42-year old 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 told a press conference streamed by the PGA Tour: “It’s tough when you’re down, when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, when everything seems to be going wrong, it’s hard, it gets you down.
“But it’s not the first time I’ve gone through some roller coasters. 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 Tour card or not – it isn’t very good.
“It’s not very good for your mental strength. It’s not very good for your psyche, 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, it’s been amazing. The journey continues.
“I’ve had 19 good years on tour and I guess I’ve got another couple coming. There’s life in the old dog yet.”
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.
Poulter 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.
His 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.
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 – and sealing his first title since the 2012 WGC-HSBC Champions.
Nine-time major champion Gary Player has hailed Jordan Spieth as the best putter he’s ever seen after the 23-year-old captured the Open Championship on Sunday.
Spieth put on a putting show late in the fourth round to recover from a shot behind after his fifth bogey of the day on the 13th, which involved a 20-minute ruling and playing his third shot from Royal Birkdale’s practice ground.
Player, a three-time Open winner, was full of praise for the young Texan, who joins Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win three majors before the age of 24.
“We are tired of hearing commentators and parents and friends saying my son or this pro is a superstar in the future because he hits it so far. The putter is the master. The power of the putter, and he’s the best putter, maybe, and I’m reluctant to say, maybe the best putter that I’ve ever seen,” said Player.
Watch the South African’s reaction to Spieth’s triumph in the video below.
Jordan Spieth will learn from his Masters collapse as well as his major triumphs as he tries to secure the third leg of the career grand slam in the Open Championship.
A second bogey-free 65 of the week means Spieth will take a three-shot lead over Matt Kuchar into Sunday’s final round at Royal Birkdale, with US Open champion Brooks Koepka three shots further back alongside 20-year-old Canadian Austin Connelly.
Victory on Sunday would make Spieth only the second player after Jack Nicklaus to have won three of the game’s four majors before the age of 24 and he could then surpass Tiger Woods as the youngest player to complete a career grand slam in next month’s US PGA at Quail Hollow.
However, the 23-year-old American is well aware that memories of his collapse in the final round of the 2016 Masters, where he blew a five-shot lead with nine holes to play, remain fresh in the memory
“I’ve had a five-shot lead in a major and squandered it before,” said Spieth, who won the Masters and US Open in 2015 and missed out on a play-off for the Open at St Andrews by a single shot.
“I’ve had the high and the humbling so I will keep my head down and not get ahead of myself.
“I think I’m in a position where it can be very advantageous, just everything I’ve gone through, the good, the bad and everything in the middle. I understand that leads can be squandered quickly, and I also understand how you can keep on rolling on one.
“It was a humbling experience that I thought at the time could serve me well going forward. And if I don’t win tomorrow, it has nothing to do with that. It has to do with it was someone else’s day, and I didn’t play as well as I should have.
“And if I win tomorrow it has nothing to do with that, either. You’re learning and it all goes into the mental process.
“Tomorrow will be a day that will be emotionally draining and difficult to stay very neutral in the head, but that’s probably the most important thing for me to do.”
Provided by Press Association