Poulter punches his ticket to Augusta at the Houston Open

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Poulter wins the Houston Open

Every year the PGA Tour congregates at the Houston Open right before the Masters. The story is always the same; which of the top players will play, who needs to figure things out, and who looks the best heading into Augusta? But often what ends up happening is several guys are fighting for a spot in the Masters, a spot they will only claim if they win.

This year, Ian Poulter bested Beau Hossler in a playoff to earn his spot in the field next week. Poulter holed a 25-foot birdie putt to force a playoff and then won on the first extra hole after Hossler thinned a greenside bunker shot into the water hazard left of the 18th green.

Hossler, playing in his 26th PGA Tour event, was another example of what we have come to expect from the 20-somethings on the PGA Tour. He was calm, cool and collected and he hit a high draw out of the bunker to a pin upĀ against the water in the last hole of regulation. Gutsy. Unfortunately, a poorly played bunker shot derailed his chances of a Masters appearance.

Poulter’s life has been uncertain recently, he’s been fighting to hold on to his PGA Tour card and earn a spot in the Masters. At the Dell Technology Match Play, Poulter was told he earned a spot in the Masters with a quarterfinal appearance. But the math was done wrong, and he actually needed to win that match to earn his spot. He didn’t complete that task. He was frustrated and tired after last week and an opening round 73 showed it. But he carded a 64 on Friday and carried it all the way to his first stroke-play victory in the United States.

No superstars, but the finish at the Houston Open was anything but boring.

Takeaways from the Houston Open

Rickie Fowler was great the first two days, but then went downhill

Fowler was two shots off the lead heading into Saturday after rounds of 66 and 68 to open the week. He was sitting pretty in contention and looked to be trending in the right direction headed to Augusta. The weekend was not nearly as kind to Fowler as he slipped from one shot off the lead to a tie for 43rd at week’s end. There were flashes of brilliance on Thursday and Friday where Rickie had 12 birdies and two bogeys. The putter wasn’t rolling in vintage Fowler fashion, a familiar phenomenon this season, and the result is two less than stellar rounds for a man trying to get the “one of the best without a major” monkey off his back.

Jordan Spieth finished in a tie for third

Spieth hasn’t been himself so far this year, especially on the greens. He has ranked out of the top 100 in strokes gained-putting all season. This week was better for Spieth. He only carded seven bogeys all week and turned in three rounds in the 60s with 21 birdies. All of the hype around the Masters hasn’t been focused on Spieth, at least not the possibility of him winning. Nonetheless, Spieth played well in Houston. HeĀ seems to be getting back to his old ways on the greens heading to Augusta.

Now that the Houston open is over, the field is complete, all the spots have been filled. It’s time for the year’s first major. It’s time for the Masters.

 

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