Ian Poulter needs a win in Houston to get into his 11th Masters, and he'll carry a share of the lead heading into Sunday.
Ian Poulter thought he'd done enough last week to get into the Masters. He was wrong, but he'll get a chance to book his ticket to Augusta on Sunday.
Needing to get into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking by Monday to get into the year's first major, Poulter was told by reporters that he'd done exactly that by reaching the quarterfinals of the WGC-Dell Match Play. He would go on to lose to Kevin Kisner in that round and later found out that he would move up only to 51st, just one spot outside the money with just one tournament left to earn a spot.
Poulter's chances of being at Augusta looked all but shot after the opening round at this week's Houston Open, when he fired a disappointing 73 as the rest of the field bathed in birdies. But Poulter followed that up with a 64 on Friday and a 65 on Saturday to get all the way to -14, and he'll share the lead with 23-year-old American Beau Hossler heading into Sunday.
Every Masters spot is spoken for except one, which is reserved for the Houston Open winner should he not otherwise be qualified. So for Poulter and Hossler, it's simple: win and in.
Hossler played his college golf at Texas, where he won the Don Haskins award in 2016 as the nation's top player. He birdied the difficult 18th for a three-under 69.
Poulter, the fiery Englishman whom American fans will remember from Ryder Cups of years past, credited the turnaround in his game to a stern talking to from his coach, Pete Cowan, and a slight adjustment in his putting alignment.
"Potentially I was flying home on Friday, and you never like to do that," Poulter said on the NBC broadcast following his round. "Just a bit of patience, and opening my shoulders a bit on my putting stroke. I started to visually see the right line and started to roll a few putts in."
Greg Chalmers, Paul Dunne, Emiliano Grillo and Kevin Tway are two back at -12. None of those players is qualified for the Masters, meaning there's a very good chance that someone books their trip to Augusta come Sunday afternoon.
Rickie Fowler seized the lead early with three birdies in his first four holes but fell out of the top spot with a double-bogey 6 on the 6th hole. He remained near the top of the leaderboard until disaster struck at the par-5 13th. Fowler hooked his drive into the water hazard then three-putted from inside six feet for a triple-bogey 6. He would finish at one-over for the day and -9 overall, five shots back.
Jordan Spieth seemed to find something with his putting, which has been below par for his standards all season, on Friday en route to a five-under 67. But he had four three-putts in his first eight holes to set him back, though solid play on the back nine saw him finish at -10. He is just four behind Poulter and Hossler.