Ian Poulter’s resilience pays off with ticket to Masters
Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn says Poulter’s performance in Texas ‘absolute class’
England’s Ian Poulter lines up a putt on the 18th green during his first playoff hole at the Houston Open in Texas. Photograph: Josh Hedges/Getty Images
A late invitation to a shindig is often the most rewarding, and for Ian Poulter, not so much a gate-crasher as a worthy invitee, securing his place in the field for this 82nd edition of the Masters tournament – earned by his win in the Houston Open – has only served to highlight his resilience.
Only a year ago the Englishman was ranked 204th in the world, and seemingly on a slippery slide to a world away from Majors and Ryder Cups. He refused to be beaten, to fall away, and climbed up the rankings to 51st a week ago, just one spot away from earning a place at the Masters. And then he went out and won in Texas to claim that precious final ticket.
It was understandable that Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn was among the first to offer congratulations, claiming Poulter’s performance was “absolute class”.
Poulter has been an integral part of Europe’s dominance, and he has taken big strides to earning a place on Bjorn’s team for Paris in September, although the reality is that he is still outside an automatic place (ninth on the world points list, 25th on the European points table). There is the fallback, of course, of getting one of the four captain’s picks.
Poulter – securing his third career win on the PGA Tour and 17th worldwide – jumping from 51st to 29th in the latest world rankings. He has now moved here to Augusta with a sense that it should never have come to supping at the last-chance saloon.
He rightly described his week as a “roller-coaster” after the disappointment of missing out on the top-50 world rankings exemption.
“It was a good decision, to be aggressive right from the start and force my way in. The win doesn’t just mean getting into Augusta, there’s a lot of bigger things on the horizon.
“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.”
He added: “To get the exemption [to the Masters] is a big one; to move up the world rankings is a big one; to tell Thomas Bjorn, ‘hey, I’m here, my game’s in shape’...I can now plan my whole schedule, and that’s really important. To be able to go back across the pond and play some European Tour events obviously with the Ryder Cup in mind in September. This [win] allows me to be able to do that as well.”
This will be Poulter’s 13th time to play in the Masters, with a best finish of tied sixth in 2015.
Paul Dunne’s bid to claim a breakthrough title on the PGA Tour was undone in his final round when a muddy ball on the eighth led to a triple-bogey eight on the par 5.
However, the Greystones player followed up his tied fifth place in the Corales Championship in the Dominican Republic with a tied eighth finish in the Houston Open ($182,000) which has moved him to second place (with earnings of $273,688) in the non-members’ category on the PGA Tour money list behind Sam Burns, and to third in the non-members’ FedEx Cup rankings.
Dunne has 145 unofficial FedEx Cup points from his limited outings, and needs to reach 269 (that of the 150th placed player on last season’s rankings) to earn special membership which would entitle him to unlimited sponsors’ invitations.
If he were to win 365 points (that of the 125th place player on the 2017 FedEx Cup) he would earn a full PGA tour for the 2018/2019 season.
Unfortunately for Dunne his top 10 finish in Houston does not get him a place in next week’s RBC Heritage, an invitational tournament which has different entry rules criteria to regular PGA Tour events.
Dunne is also very much involved in chasing a Ryder Cup place, ranked seventh on the European points list and 14th on the world points table.