Poulter out to retain status, qualify for Masters


PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Ian Poulter delivered one of the wildest finishes in Honda Classic history two years ago, and he’s still smarting over how it got away.

Poulter has so much to play for at PGA National this week, but he may burn most for a Sunday chance to wipe away the memory of that frustrating close call back in 2015.

With a 4-under-par 66 Thursday, Poulter is in early position to do just that, positioning himself two shots off the lead.

Back in ‘15, Poulter took a three-shot lead into the final round on the Champion Course. He hit five balls in the water, but somehow, some way, kept climbing out of the grave, kept fighting back to give himself a chance to the bitter end.

With a pair of closing birdies, Poulter missed out on a playoff by a single shot.

“I'd like to have another go at the cherry,” Poulter said. “I found myself in a position, obviously, that week where I was a number of shots in front, and it's just a real shame not to convert those chances.

“They hurt, because you really should finish tournaments off when you're in positions like that. So, if I'm in a chance on Sunday to grab hold, then I would love to finish it a little differently than a couple years ago.”

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Poulter has a lot of reasons to play well this week.

Out for almost half of last season with an arthritic joint in his right foot, Poulter is playing the PGA Tour on a major medical extension this year. He needs to make $220,301 or accumulate 155 FedEx Cup points in his next six starts to keep full status.

But Poulter wants more than that. He wants to keep his streak of appearances at the Masters going.

“I'm trying not to get in the way of thinking, 'Oh, I just need X.' Because I don't need X,” Poulter said. “I have to earn enough money to continue the season. So if I play well in those six events, I've obviously got a great chance to do that. If I can win one of those six, then, obviously, it takes care of that. And if I can win one of the first few, I can get into Augusta.”

Poulter has played in 12 Masters, the last 10 in a row, but he plummeted to No. 206 in the world rankings with all that time off last year. He needs to climb among the top 50 in the world the week prior to the Masters to qualify - or win a PGA Tour event.

“So there's a bigger picture, right,” Poulter said. “It's definitely not just medical. I don't want to miss Augusta. So I need to play well and I need to play well quickly.”