Ian Poulter just now defeated Beau Hossler in the first extra hole of sudden death to win the Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston in Humble, Texas. It was the 42-year old Englishman’s return to the winner’s circle in the U.S. after six years. Hossler turned pro in 2016 and was seeking his first PGA Tour win.
Poulter kept alive his reputation for grit in the clutch, especially with his putter. On the 485-yard, par-four, 18th hole today–the last hole of regulation play and the most difficult hole on the course–Hossler was leading the tournament with a one stroke lead over only Poulter. Both players were playing together in the last pairing. Hossler drove into the right sand bunker, and Poulter split the center of the fairway with his drive.
Poulter played first, hitting his mid-iron right at the pin that was tucked in the back left side of the green, close to the lake that straddles the entire left side of the slightly-dog leg left 18th hole. But the 18th green, elongated from front to back, has a ridge running across the middle of it. Poulter’s shot landed into the upslope of that ridge, failing to get over it and easily roll down beside the hole. Thus, he left himself a difficult, 20-foot putt for a birdie three that had to negotiate that ridge.
Hossler then played a magnificent shot out of the bunker, right at the pin just as Poulter had done. But also like Poulter, Hossler’s shot landed into the upslope of that ridge as his ball settled only about three feet farther from the hole than Poulter’s had. Both players now had birdie putts pretty much on the same line to the cup.
Hossler then struck what looked like a perfect putt that may have hit some imperfection in the the green’s surface near the hole that barely caused the ball to jump off line, rimming the right side of the cup as it stopped a foot past. Poulter now had the advantage after having seen the line of Hossler’s putt. It was now Poulter’s stage to keep the drama going, something he seems to relish. Poulter also hit a perfect putt that ducked out of sight into the hole to tie Hossler in regulation play at 18-under par 280. As Poulter’s ball was rolling right at the cup, the emotional Ian beat his right fist hard against his heart several times in quick succession while stomping toward the cup. The young, gentlemanly Hossler smiled while witnessing the Poulter antics.
The sudden death playoff hole was the 18th hole all over again. Poulter played first, hitting his drive into the short rough between the fairway and sand bunker. Hossler then drove into that same bunker as he had just done minutes ago. Hossler played first, this time pushing his iron shot into the right sand bunker beside the green. Poulter played his second shot safely onto the green about 30 feet from the hole.
Hossler now had a difficult third shot from the sand bunker, with water behind the green. He then practically gave Poulter the tournament, taking a huge swing that sailed the ball over the green, tumbling barely into the water. Hossler then finished with a triple bogey as Poulter easily two-putted for the win.
Twenty-three old Beau Hossler has a very good golf swing, with a slightly short backswing. He keeps the ball in play well. Evidence of this is that as a young amateur golfer, even starting in his teens he played in the U.S. Open, with its narrow fairways and extensive rough, three times with respectable results.
At one time, Ian Poulter was ranked 5th in Sony World Rankings. He was the superstar one year when Europe beat the USA in the Ryder Cup. Surprisingly, this Houston Open was Poulter’s first stroke play win on the PGA Tour. He had won only two PGA Tour tournaments before this, both of them match play events, in 2010 and 2012.
Ian Poulter has been plagued in recent years with injuries. For a while, he played the PGA Tour on a medical extension and then briefly lost his playing privileges. Now he is back. This gets him back into the Masters next week and and exemption for the next two years. When you get up there in age, like Poulter, it’s not so easy to stay exempt unless you are a superstar. I know. My last full year on the PGA Tour was at age 42, as Ian Poulter is now, when I lost my exemption and then hung up the sticks, not knowing that my pro golf career would be revived eight years later with the new Senior Tour (now called the Champions Tour).