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This Week In Golf: Poulter Secures Masters Invite With Houston Open Playoff Win

By Sam McPherson

The drama of the moment was not too much for England's Ian Poulter on Sunday as he forced his way into a playoff at the Houston Open with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 72nd green. He then won the tournament on the first hole of that playoff with a par, securing the final spot in the field for the Masters Tournament this week in Augusta, Georgia, the first major of the PGA Tour season.

American Beau Hossler could only manage a triple bogey on the extra hole, after watching Poulter's incredible putt on the final hole of the fourth round at the Golf Club of Houston to tie him for the lead at 19 under. For Hossler, there will be no invitation to the Masters, although his runners-up winnings of $756,000 is a nice consolation prize for the 23-year-old Tour pro. Meanwhile, Poulter takes home $1.26 million as the winner, which will go a long way towards getting him to Augusta next week.

Hossler had put himself in good position to win the Houston Open with four straight birdies on the back nine Sunday, and his own 30-foot putt to win the event outright on the last hole missed just right of the cup. Jordan Spieth, the 24-year-old Texan who won the Masters in 2015, finished in a tie for third place with Argentina's Emiliano Grillo at 16-under par. Both players earned $406,000 for their respective efforts.

Poulter started the Houston Open with a first-round 73 after he had been misinformed about qualifying for the Masters last week. He recovered to shoot 64-65-67 over the next three rounds, while first-round leader Paul Dunne of Ireland shot 64-71-69-71 to finish in a tie for eighth at 13 under. Also finishing at 13-under par were perennial Augusta fan favorite Matt Kuchar and 2017 Houston Open champion Russell Henley.

Three players shot all four rounds in the 60s at the Golf Club of Houston: Hossler, Grillo and Henrik Stenson of Sweden, who finished in a tie for sixth place with a 14-under score.

>>MORE: This Week In Golf

Next On The Tee: The Masters Tournament

It is that time of spring once again, as the golf world's attention once again falls on the Augusta National Golf Course in Georgia for the first major championship of the year. With $11 million up for grabs, Spain's Sergio Garcia will try to hold off Spieth and a score of former winners to defend his 2017 title, the first of his illustrious career. Garcia defeated England's Justin Rose in a playoff to win the coveted green jacket.

The field at Augusta gets a huge boost this year, as Tiger Woods returns to compete in the event he's won four times, although not since 2005. Woods has missed three of the last four Masters while dealing with a myriad of injuries. His 17th-place finish in 2015, in addition to seven Top 6 finishes at Augusta since he last won the event, means Woods is always a threat to win on this golf course when healthy.

In addition, the field includes 17 other former Masters champs besides Garcia, Spieth, and Woods. There are also many other former major winners in the field, as well, as the event invites the last five winners from each of the other three major golf championships as well. This means it's a star-studded field at Augusta, just as it is every spring.

The course for the Masters needs little introduction here, but for the record, legends Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie are responsible for its beauty and its drama. Established in 1933, the Augusta course is renowned for its challenging holes, its glorious trees and its deceptive greens. The traditional hole placements and annual grandeur mean every golf fan knows this course almost as well as the professionals and amateurs that get to play on it. The back nine almost always finds a way to create drama on Sunday afternoon as the sun sets on one of the most beautiful golf courses in America.

The Augusta National Golf Course course plays 7,435 yards long and is a par 72.

Favorites: Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

Players to Watch: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Bubba Watson

Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he's quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.

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