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Poulter Surges Towards Masters Berth

Ian Poulter is in position to play his way into the Masters after a brilliant 36 hole run in Houston (Photo: Getty Images)
From outside the cut line Thursday to the top of the leaderboard Saturday, England’s Ian Poulter is in prime position to grab the final berth in next week’s Masters after a stunning 36 holes of golf at the Houston Open.

The former Ryder Cup hero amassed 15 birdies against no bogeys in his 64-65 run Friday and Saturday to share the lead with rising American star Beau Hossler.

After an opening round 74 that saw him hovering near the tail of the field, Poulter has been sublime as he chases a place in the Masters field which he was incorrectly led to believe he had already secured last week.

After qualifying for the semi-finals at the WGC Match Play in Texas, an official told Poulter he would move inside the world’s top 50 and be assured of a spot at Augusta but that turned out not to be the case.

Motivated by the error, the two-time PGA Tour winner made a slight adjustment to his putting set-up Thursday afternoon which has paid big dividends.

“I was frustrated, not really with my play on Thursday but just the result wasn’t good,” he said.

“So a bit of patience, opened my shoulders a little bit on my putting stroke and started to visually see the right line and just started to roll a few putts in.

“Continued that obviously into today, it feels good so hopefully I can go out there tomorrow and do exactly the same and who knows?”

Hossler birdied the final hole at the Golf Club of Houston to join Poulter at 14-under, the pair two clear of a group of four players that includes Australia’s Greg Chalmers.

As has been the case all week the leaderboard is a logjam with 22 players within five shots of top spot promising a shootout in the final round.

Both Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, among the favourites at the start of the day sitting one and two shots off the pace respectively, struggled Saturday to slip down the standings.

Fowler endured both a double and triple bogey during his round, the latter coming courtesy of a four putt after finding a hazard off the tee at the par-5 13th.

His 1-over 73 dropped him 15 places down the leaderboard to T17 while Spieth slipped seven places with a 1-under 71.

That total included four three putt greens, a cause for concern for the 2015 Masters winner ahead of the year’s first major next week.

Chalmers was perhaps the surprise performer of Saturday matching Poulter’s 65, the low score of the day, to leapfrog 39 players and enter the final round T3.

A lone bogey at the 17th hole was offset by eight birdies for the day and the likeable left hander is on track for his best finish since winning the Barracuda Championship in 2016.

He hasn’t posted a top 10 since that maiden victory and with nine missed cuts already for the 2107/18 season a strong finish tomorrow would represent a much needed confidence boost.

He was the only one of the three Australians to make the cut to move the right direction on day three, Aaron Baddeley signing for a 2-over 74 to slip to T70 at 3-under while Matt Jones is at the same mark after an even par 72.

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