Poulter beats Garcia to save season

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The Independent Online

Ian Poulter, who two days previously had rated his season at "1 out of 10" - the "1" being the Ryder Cup - was able to update that assessment by winning the season-ending Volvo Masters after a play-off with his Oakland Hills team-mate, Sergio Garcia, "Let's call it a 5, maybe 6, but no higher than 7," Poulter said.

Ian Poulter, who two days previously had rated his season at "1 out of 10" - the "1" being the Ryder Cup - was able to update that assessment by winning the season-ending Volvo Masters after a play-off with his Oakland Hills team-mate, Sergio Garcia, "Let's call it a 5, maybe 6, but no higher than 7," Poulter said.

It came late but Poulter continued his run of winning every season on tour since 2000. The 28-year-old from Milton Keynes and the local hero, Garcia, tied on seven under par after both posted final rounds of 70.

Garcia was attempting to win a second successive Spanish tournament but missed his chance on the 18th. In the playoff he was struggling from the moment he pushed his drive. Blocked out by the cork trees his second went left, his third came up short.

A bogey five was the best he could do but Poulter, who went left off the tee and just made the fringe with his second, chipped to two feet and holed for the victory. "I refused to lose," Poulter said. "I feel I have to win every year. It's a nice way to end a disappointing season, the Ryder Cup apart, but which has turned out to be a great one. This is a great tournament to win. Winning every year helps me in the world rankings."

Poulter, with his biggest title to date ,earned £432,202 to finish ninth on the order of merit and moved into the world top 50.

Alastair Forsyth led by three strokes overnight but bogeyed the first two holes. The Scot remained in contention, however, until his drive at the 16th finished in the trees and he took three to find the green, holing from five feet for a bogey.

Otherwise, Forsyth compiled a 74 that left him at six under, one outside the play-off. Poulter took the lead with three birdies in a row from the eighth with impeccable putting.

But by failing to get up and down at the 13th he fell back into a three-way tie. Garcia's back nine was blemish-free but his birdies at the 11th and the 12th were his last.

It should have come at the 18th, where his approach almost pitched in and finished four feet away. But he pulled the putt and although Poulter missed his 20-footer for victory at the last regulation hole, Garcia did not get another chance.

Ernie Els, who had wrapped up a second successive Order of Merit title without having to play here, received support from George O'Grady, the executive director designate of the European Tour, over the South African's ongoing battle with the US Tour.

Els has been asked to play over 20 events in the States, rather than the minimum of 15, in order to be released for his worldwide schedule. "The fact that Ernie is concerned should concern them. It's too much pressure to put on a player of his level who usually plays 17 tournaments in the States anyway. He is a hard man to tell to do something but is always prepared to listen. If you ask him politely, sometimes he says yes," O'Grady said.

The issue will be discussed at a meeting of the Federation of International Tours at the World Cup in Seville later this month. Retief Goosen has experienced similar problems with the Americans, while the European Tour is concerned for younger talents like Trevor Immelman and Adam Scott.

"We are not keen on somebody telling us that the European Tour is only the European Tour when we play in Europe, as opposed to our co-sanctioned events. That is the other point at issue and we are not happy about it."

Volvo Masters (Valderrama, Spain) Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 277 I Poulter 71 67 69 70; S Garcia (Sp) 67 69 71 70 (Poulter won at first play-off hole). 278 A Forsyth 68 69 67 74. 280 P Hanson (Swe) 70 70 70 70. 281 D Howell 73 69 73 66; C Cevaër (Fr) 69 70 70 72. 283 L Westwood 72 71 72 68; S Drummond 74 71 68 70. 284 P Casey 72 70 74 68; T Immelman (SA) 70 73 68 73. 285 T Bjorn (Den) 75 70 71 69; P Broadhurst 73 74 69 69; J Lomas 69 72 74 70; D Clarke 73 72 68 72. Selected: 286 287 L Donald 69 76 74 68; C Montgomerie 75 74 69 69; P Harrington 72 70 71 74.

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