Poulter shines after week of struggle

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The Independent Online

Ian Poulter gave his confidence another shot in the arm with a brilliant closing round of 64 at the WGC-CA Championship in Miami yesterday.

With no chance of winning when he resumed joint 62nd of the 68-strong field, the World Match Play champion opened with a 54-foot eagle putt, then had seven birdies, the same as Rory McIlroy had all last week. Poulter, who nearly pulled out before the start on Thursday due to neck strain, has only twice scored lower on the US Tour.

"I'd struggled all week but today I came out, felt good and was hitting it 20 yards further, maybe 30," said the world number five after the low round of the tournament. "It was frustrating to get the start I did, but I feel my golf game is in shape and I can prepare for The Masters the best I've ever prepared."

Even at two under par, however, he was still 10 adrift of South Africans Ernie Els and Charl Schwartzel, who resumed one ahead of Padraig Harrington. Poulter plays this week in Tampa, then has the two-day Tavistock Cup and then two weeks off before facing the first major of the season.

McIlroy is spending the next three days at Augusta after finishing a disappointing week with a third successive 73 and a seven-over total.

Only England's Oliver Wilson and Australian Michael Sim ended up below the 20-year-old.

McIlroy has been battling the recurrence of a back problem for the last six weeks, but at least that was better in his final round.

McIlroy then headed off to see the Miami Heat basketball team for the second time in three days, joking: "It's about the only thing that's making me smile. I just didn't have it and haven't had it for the last couple of weeks.

"I've a few issues to sort out when I get home. The back isn't worrying me, but it's getting me down."

He said he intends to ease off on the physiotherapy, at least for a while, adding: "Half of it is probably mental. I'm starting off in a negative mood."

Despite his finishing position, Wilson gave his spirits a badly needed lift with a closing 67 – and did it in little more than two-and-a-half hours. In his last competitive round before The Masters, he improved from 13 over to eight over and avoided finishing last after collecting seven birdies in the first 12 holes.

"It was carefree golf at its absolute best," he said. "My short game has been pathetic this week and I just hit a lot more greens today. Embarrassed is not too strong a word. It was just one of those weeks. I got sidetracked working on things that are already good."

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