Ian Poulter delivered another big moment Sunday, this one for himself.Down to his last putt, Poulter made a 20-foot birdie on the 18th hole and forced a playoff with Beau Hossler, and he then won the Houston Open with a par on the first extra hole and earned the final spot in the Masters.
A week after Poulter was mistakenly told that he had locked up a spot at Augusta National through the world ranking, he left no doubt in the matter by winning with a clutch moment reminiscent of his Ryder Cup heroics at Medinah in 2012.
“I had to dig deep today,” said Poulter, who closed with a five-under-par 67.
Hossler, who also shot a 67, overcame a three-shot deficit with four straight birdies on the back nine. He had a chance to win on the 18th in regulation with a 30-foot birdie putt that trickled over the right edge of the cup.
That set the stage for Poulter, and the 42-year-old Englishman lived up to his nickname, the Postman, by delivering his biggest putt in years. Poulter pounded his chest five times when the putt dropped, and all Hossler could do was smile.
In the sudden-death playoff on the 18th, one of the more daunting finishing holes off the tee with water down the left side and a bunker to the right, Hossler found the bunker for a second time. He hit into a greenside bunker, and his third shot caught way too much ball and went over the green and into the water.
Poulter won for the third time on the PGA Tour, and for his first in America since the match play event in 2010 at Arizona. This was his first stroke-play victory in America, and the timing could not have been better.
When he reached the quarterfinals of the Dell Technologies Match Play event last weekend in Austin, Tex., he was told that it was enough to get him into the top 50 in the world ranking by the end of the weekend, the cutoff for qualifying for the Masters.
It turned out he needed to win his quarterfinal match, and Poulter was informed of the mistake before he teed off. Kevin Kisner beat him, 8 and 6.
It was his first victory since the HSBC Champions, a World Golf Championship event at Mission Hills in China in 2012. That was a month after Poulter had led Europe to a stunning turnaround in the Ryder Cup by making five straight birdies to win a four-ball match and give Europe momentum to overcome a 4-point deficit.
Along with going to the Masters, Poulter will crack the top 30 in the world and is in good shape to be eligible for the other majors. He also has a two-year exemption, critical because he nearly lost his card a year ago until he was spared by a clerical error.
Hossler did everything right until the playoff. His four straight birdies included a 30-footer on the par-3 14th that tied him for the lead, and a wedge that settled 4 feet below the hole that gave him the lead with three to play.
Jordan Spieth closed with a 66 and tied for third with Emiliano Grillo (68), picking up momentum for the Masters. It was Spieth’s best finish against a full field since he tied for second in the Dell Technologies Championship outside Boston in September.
“Goal accomplished for the week,” Spieth said. “I’ve made some big strides from my last couple tournaments. I’m very excited for what next week holds.”