Ian Poulter birdied the 72nd hole and beat Beau Hossler in a playoff to win the Houston Open on Sunday. Here’s how Poulter came away with that final Masters invite after all.
Leaderboard: Poulter (-19), Hossler (-19), Jordan Spieth (-16), Emiliano Grillo (-16), Sam Ryder (-15)
What it means: This is Poulter’s first worldwide win since 2012 and his first-ever stroke-play victory in the United States. The Englishman was under the impression that his win in last week’s Round of 16 at the Match Play was enough to secure a Masters berth, until he learned it wasn’t. A week later, the 51st-ranked player in the world and the 54-hole co-leader carded four birdies in his first eight holes Sunday but lost his lead to Hossler on the back nine. One down with one to play, Poulter poured in a 20-foot birdie putt at 18 to match Hossler’s round of 67 and force a playoff. On the first extra hole, Poulter watched as Hossler hit his greenside bunker shot over the putting surface and into water. Two putts later, Poulter was celebrating the end of a five-and-half-year winless drought. With the win, Poulter doesn’t have to rely on any complicated Official World Golf Ranking math; he’s guaranteed a tee time at Augusta.
Biggest disappointment: Hossler looked like he had this thing wrapped up on his first trip down 18. After Poulter raced ahead early in the day, Hossler fired back with a birdie barrage of his own, circling Nos. 12, 13, 14 and 15 to pull one ahead with three holes to play. Hossler nearly wrapped up the win in regulation but his birdie putt at 18 burned the right edge and opened the door for Poulter, who took full advantage. In the playoff, Hossler found fairway and greenside bunkers, and it was from the latter that he found the water. He dropped, pitched on, missed a putt for double and made a triple-bogey 7 to lose both the tournament and the last spot in the Masters.
Round of the day: Defending champion Russell Henley made eight birdies against a lone bogey to shoot 65 and move up 40 spots on the leaderboard into a tie for eighth. Henley is in the Masters field. Henley, who earned a 2017 Masters invite with his win last year, will return to Augusta this year thanks to his appearance in last fall’s Tour Championship
Best of the rest: If you were looking for signs of life from Spieth ahead of the year’s first major, his performance in Houston provided plenty of encouragement. The 2015 Masters champion made five birdies, an eagle and a bogey Sunday to shoot 6-under 66 and finish T-3.
Shot of the day: Poulter's birdie putt on the 72nd hole to force the playoff:
Quote of the day: "Last week was painful. To come here this week, I was tired, I was frustrated on Thursday, I didn't play my best stuff, I had packed my bags obviously to leave on Friday. ... This is amazing. I haven't won a stroke-play event in the United States. So to do it this week, after the disappointment of last week, to know I'm going to Augusta, to do it in true fashion is amazing." - Poulter