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Ian Poulter says he is refusing to play the mentally exhausting 'what if?' game as he attempts to clinch a 17th Masters appearance next month.
Poulter is currently 65th in the world rankings, and needs to climb back into the world’s top fifty by the end of the World Match Play on March 27 to earn a place at Augusta.
With Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and several other players unlikely to claim their spots at the 64-man Match Play, Poulter should get a start, despite being outside the ‘cut line’. If not, he may have to add either the Valspar Championship or the Texas Open to his schedule - which could leave him short of energy if he does make it to Augusta.
But he refuses to contemplate that prospect, saying: “I’ve played the 'what if' game too often in the past. That’s not my frame of mind this week. I just need to play my game and trust that it’s good enough to get the job done.
“It goes without saying that I’m desperate to play in the Masters, so I’ve got two opportunities to get it done, which is this week and the Match Play. There’s a few guys that are obviously not going to turn up for the Match Play. So it depends how far down the list it goes. But I can take care of all that myself this week.
“If the worst happened, I don’t think I’d add another event. But I’m not in that position yet where I have to consider going to the last chance saloon. The 'what if' game is so mentally taxing. It’s not something you want to play.
“This week gives me a great opportunity to change things around - I’ve played well here in the past with two runner-up finishes, so I know it’s a course that suits me. I feel very comfortable around here, and I know what the layout gives you from the perspective of rewarding creativity, and I’m looking forward to another good week.”
Poulter was also encouraged by the fact that he bumped into Beau Hossler - briefly - during the warm-up to the Players Championship. He beat Hossler in a playoff at the Houston Open a week before the 2018 Masters to earn a last-gasp invite to Augusta.
Poulter added: “I played the final hole on Tuesday with Beau - I’d been practising alone but hooked up with him and Frankie Molinari on the 18th tee - and hopefully that was a good omen.
“The last time I left it so late to qualify for the Masters I got in by beating Beau in a playoff in Texas the week before Augusta, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t played with him since.
“And look, I feel my game is very good at the moment. I was in the top ten after the first round at Bay Hill last week, and then the course got brutally difficult, and it was tough to get any momentum going.
“I started the year finishing sixth in Abu Dhabi - which was a disappointing sixth given how well I played - and I feel like everything is heading in the right direction. My putting stroke is good, and so is my driving. There’s nothing about my game that I’m concerned about.
“And I feel healthy. There have been quite a few times when I’ve come here carrying an injury or struggling for form, and still managed to perform. So with none of those concerns this time, I think I’m entitled to be optimistic about my chances.”
David brings a wealth of experience to Golf Monthly as a freelance contributor having spent more than two decades covering the game as The Sun's golf correspondent. Prior to that, he worked as a sports reporter for the Daily Mail. David has covered the last 12 Ryder Cups and every Masters tournament since 1999. A popular and highly-respected name in the press tents around the world, David has built close relationships with many of the game's leading players and officials.
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