Poulter poised to steal World Cup place

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The Independent Online

Ian Poulter kept alive his chances of a place in England's World Cup team in the Linde German Masters here yesterday after a second-round 63. At the halfway stage he has a 16-under total of 128 and a one-stroke lead over Miguel Angel Jimenez.

A place in the England team would mean that Poulter would have to reschedule an operation to remove his tonsils, which is due to take place on 11 November. Poulter has been troubled by tonsillitis for several years. It affected him during his Wales Open victory earlier this year and he was bed-ridden for two days before finishing third in the Lancôme Trophy last Sunday.

Poulter's operation is booked in two days before the start of the World Cup at Kiawah Island in South Carolina, but he can still get into the two-man team if he claims his third win of the season on Sunday.

"That was brought to my attention at the beginning of the week. I thought it would be out of reach," said Poulter, who needs to win to overhaul Justin Rose in the world rankings and renew his 2001 World Cup partnership with Paul Casey. "I would love to play in it again so I'd have to postpone the operation if I made it."

Victory on Sunday would also be worth €500,000 (£348,000) and the same number of Ryder Cup points, well over half the amount with which Phil Price secured the last automatic qualifying place for The Belfry last year.

Poulter was next in line for the team, 30,000 points behind, and looks likely to go at least one better this time and qualify for the European team which will defend the trophy at Oakland Hills next September.

"It's a huge week," admitted Poulter, who was overlooked for a wild card in favour of Sergio Garcia and Jesper Parnevik. "I just want to focus on what I have been doing for the last few weeks and keep hitting good golf shots, and if I do that I think I can take care of the Ryder Cup points with no problem."

Poulter's 63 contained nine birdies, and he has yet to drop a shot this week. Jimenez equalled the best round of the day with a 62. His fellow Malaga resident, Carlos Rodiles, was a shot further behind, alongside the Marbella-based Englishman Miles Tunnicliff, on 131.

The overnight leader, Fredrik Jacobson, could only manage a 71. But he and Poulter still totalled 32 birdies and an eagle between them over the first two days.

That will not have improved the mood of Colin Montgomerie, the third member of the group, who managed a mere seven birdies in two rounds and missed the cut on two under. The 40-year-old was in distinguished company, as the Ryder Cup captain, Bernhard Langer, Padraig Harrington and Nick Faldo all headed home early.

German Masters: (Cologne) Leading second-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 128 I Poulter 65 63. 129 M A Jimenez (Sp) 67 62. 130 C Rodiles (Sp) 65 65; M Tunnicliff 67 63. 131 A Hansen (Den) 69 62; F Jacobson (Swe) 60 71. 132 P Casey 65 67. 133 P Hedblom (Swe) 68 65; J Moseley (Aus) 68 65. 134 I Woosnam 67 67. 135 M McNulty (Zim) 68 67; J Rose 69 66; J Bickerton 67 68; A Scott (Aus) 66 69; D Howell 66 69. 136 M Fraser (Aus) 66 70; M Lafeber (Neth) 67 69; P Fowler (Aus) 69 67; M Campbell (NZ) 69 67; D Fichardt (SA) 69 67; M Lundberg (Swe) 69 67; R Karlsson (Swe) 68 68; P Lawrie 69 67. Selected: 138 L Westwood 71 67. 139 P McGinley 67 72; S Lyle 67 72. 140 J M Olazabal (Sp) 72 68. 141 N Faldo 72 69; P Harrington 73 68. 142 P Price 74 68; B Langer (Ger) 70 72.