Poulter's rollercoaster back on the right track

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The Independent Online

There is only one thing worse than not getting to play in the Masters and that is only getting to play for two days.

Missing the cut at Augusta can only lead to bitter disappointment and resentment. What might have been? Players have to be ejected kicking and screaming, or these days, kicking and tweeting.

Of course, there is one thing even worse than being sent on your way to watch (or not) from home as the possessors of the golden weekend tickets (which go to the top 44 and ties and anyone within 10 strokes of the lead) get on with trying to win the Green Jacket. And that is to have to hang around until Sunday just to help the new champion into the most coveted garment in golf.

Since this is the job of the previous year's winner it is only a small select group who are eligible in the first place, as Sir Nick Faldo can attest. The owner of three jackets was the man who placed a first on the shoulders of Tiger Woods in 1997 and he was well rested after scoring an 81 on Friday and having the weekend off.

Nothing would get the old knight more excited than calling home a compatriot as champion and there is a wide group of contenders hoping to become the heir to a man whose heroics they watched in their formative years.

But first things first. Even Alvaro Quiros, the Spaniard who gave an entertaining press conference on Thursday night after tying Rory McIlroy for the lead, said his plan for the second round was just to make the cut. Quiros had not come within a sniff of doing so in his two previous appearances but Ian Poulter had never failed to make it in his six outing at Augusta so far.

Fortunes can change around this place quicker than a mis-struck approach shot rolling back into one of famous water features on the back nine.

Poulter was chugging along happily enough at two under on Thursday afternoon when he dropped four strokes at the last four holes, including a double bogey at the last. Starting out yesterday at two over par, Poulter had to first make sure of attaining his perfect attendance record and a 69, to move to one under, did just that. It was a thrilling start, if a little fortunate as a speculative birdie putt from 40 feet at the first hole found the cup. The 33-year-old followed up by chipping to five feet at the long second and holing that before gaining a third birdie in a row at the third hole.

It was a round of three thirds. Between the fifth and the 11th hole, where he missed the green on the right and failed to get up and down, he dropped three strokes. But in the rollercoaster world of Poults, he was off again in the right direction with three birdies in the last six holes, including at the last which was a nice way to get revenge for the disaster there the previous evening.

"The three dropped shots today were unforced errors," Poulter said. "I wasn't happy finishing the way I did last night, after playing flawlessly and then a couple of poor putts and a lapse of concentration." Poulter does not appear the happiest of campers at the moment. His only comments after the round were made to Sky Sports since he has chosen to ignore the written press following an incident earlier in the week – the right or wrongs of which will only be known come tomorrow evening.

Poulter was asked for a prediction about Tiger's finishing position, given last year he correctly predicted that the former world No 1 would finish in the top-five on his return to competition following a sex scandal. This time Poulter thought Woods would be outside the top-five, an opinion that few think is particularly outrageous with the one exception of Woods himself, of course. When Woods was told, Tiger came over all snarky and said: "Well, Poults is always right."

Well, Poults may be right but, in the meantime, he feels the nice things he said about Woods were not reported as widely as the bald prediction so has retreated to the company of his million followers on Twitter.

At least, he is not cursed like Luke Donald, who won the Par-Three competition on Wednesday and is adamant that there is a first time for everything.

Once more his short game is proving a special quality and a chip-in from the Larry Mize spot to the right of the 11th green helped him to three birdies in four holes early on the back nine.

At four under Donald was the best placed of the Englishmen alongside Ross Fisher. Paul Casey was left frustrated by a 72 that meant he remained at two under. "I'm in the mix but not far enough up the leaderboard," he said. "I didn't make enough birdies but I just need to bide my time."

Justin Rose, following a 73 in the first round, was in danger of missing the cut after going out in 39 but an eagle at the 13th and birdies at the 14th and 16th holes salvaged his weekend plans for another couple of rounds in search of a Green Jacket.