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For 1 Day Poulter Backs Up Words

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The cheer was as loud anything Ian Poulter had heard, to be expected after a hole-in-one Thursday on the 16th hole of the Masters before thousands of fans perched on a hill above the green.
He plucked the ball from the cup and held it with two fingers to salute the crowd, a most appropriate signal.
Thats his nickname these days'world No. 2.
Even with his spiked hair and outrageous wardrobe, Poulter was ridiculed earlier this year for an interview with a British golf magazine in which he suggested he alone was the only player capable of challenging Tiger Woods.
Poulter certainly looked the part in the first round at Augusta National.
He nearly made a hole-in-one on No. 4, the toughest par 3 on the course, and gave himself birdie opportunities on all but two holes. His opening 2-under 70 was his best start at the Masters, and earned a piece of crystal for an ace he wont soon forget.
Massive. Unbelievable buzz, Poulter said. It was a special moment, and the hairs on the back of your neck were standings up.
Now if he can get everyone to forget about that interview.
Poulter has only seven victories, all on the European Tour. He has only one top 10 in a major, a tied for ninth at Medinah in the 2006 PGA Championship when he finished nine shots behind Woods.
So it was surprising when he told Golf World U.K. that he doesnt rate anyone else.
Dont get me wrong. I really respect every professional golfer, Poulter said. But I know I havent played to my full potential, and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger.
It wasnt a knock on Woods, rather the two dozen players ahead of him in the world ranking, many of them his European peers. The ribbing came from every direction, even from the worlds No. 1. Woods was leaving the locker room at the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona when he turned the corner and passed Poulter, saying, Hey, No. 2.
Poulter said his comments were taken out of context, and so was the reaction.
I was basically saying how good Tiger was and how achievable I really think it is to get to the No. 2 spot, he said. It was pretty difficult for a few days. Amongst the guys, it was friendly banter. I wasnt comparing anything to Tiger. I wasnt going to say I was going to go win 84 tournaments on the PGA Tour. I havent won one yet. To be compared to him was a little unfair.
It was tricky, but I think were fine.
Poulter could not think of a better start to this Masters, except for a few more putts to fall. He has posted better scores in the majors, but he could not think of too many rounds where he hit the ball better, and gave himself so many chances.
I dont know if thats a true reflection of how well I played today, but its probably one of the best rounds of golf Ive ever played, he said. You dont have to shoot 61 for it to be the best round of golf youve ever played. If I sit back home tonight and go through it for 10 minutes, I wouldnt want to putt the ball in any different positions from where I did today.
Of course, he didnt have to putt on No. 16.
With the pin below the ridge, Poulter hit an 8-iron from 169 yards that never left the middle of the green, which is where he was aiming. It caught the slope perfectly and began its descent toward the hole. It hit the pin squarely and disappeared.
As soon as it left the club, I knew it was going to be pretty good, Poulter said.
Trees that once were to the left of the green have been cleared to provide even more viewing, creating an amphitheater and one of the loudest corners at Augusta National.
Little did Poulter know, his audience included the world No. 1.
Woods was standing on the sixth tee when he heard the crescendo of cheers that topped out when the ball dropped for the ace. He turned his eyes back to the sixth green, contemplating his next shot.
Woods is not concerned with Poulter, and the Englishman says theres no need for him to feel that way.
Quite frankly, theres nobody in the same bracket as him. Hes that good, Poulter said. You have to be realistic with your goals. Things are achievable if you play well over a year period or a two-year period. And I think the No. 2 spot for me is achievable.
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