<
>

Poulter shines as Brits enjoy strong Masters finish

Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

Ian Poulter says his strong finish to earn a share of sixth place at the Masters shows he has the game to win a major, as Britain's players gave Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke some early thoughts to ponder.

Poulter made successive 67's on Saturday and Sunday, shooting 10-under par in his last 36 holes - five better than champion Jordan Spieth.

But it was the Englishman's third round caught the eye of Europe's Ryder Cup captain and playing partner Clarke, who admitted it was one of the best rounds he had seen Poulter play. With six months until Ryder Cup qualifying begins, Poulter finished at Augusta National in high spirits - if a little frustrated.

"I was proud of the way I played over the weekend - I only missed four greens in regulation in the final two rounds, which is a bit special around here," Poulter said.

"I gave myself so many chances, and I could have even gone lower over these last 36. It makes the first couple of days even more frustrating, because I left far too many spots in really bad places - and I should know better at this place."

Poulter's overall total of 9-under was matched by a rejuvenated Paul Casey who, after spending a couple of years in the golfing doldrums, made a case for his own Ryder Cup ambitions.

A final-round 68 earned Casey a share of sixth place, along with American Dustin Johnson.

"I'm ecstatic with that, because I didn't have the game I wanted, and I was rocking along out there having to fight every inch of the way," said Casey, who is now inside the world's top 50 again and equalled his best ever Masters finish.

"To finish nine under the way I was striking the ball is great. This is a course I have always loved, and I missed it while I was away."

Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose both scored 4 under-par rounds and, while the world No.1 will have to wait at least another year to complete a career grand slam, there were plenty of positives.

"I prepared really, really well for this tournament.," McIlroy said. "I came in feeling good and I felt like I played okay on Thursday. I got it in in red numbers. Just the start on Friday was really what killed me.

"But as you've seen over the last 45 holes, again, there I'm playing very nicely. It's just a matter of putting it all together.

"I didn't miss it that much but when I missed it, I missed it in the right spots and I was just a little more efficient and got it up and down. I holed out a bit better yesterday and today. All those little things sort of add up and especially when margin of error is so small here."

Rose ended an inspiring four days with a tie for second place alongside Phil Mickelson at 14-under - a score he admitted he would "take next year".

Elsewhere, Jamie Donaldson - who sank Europe's winning putt at Gleneagles last year - birdied five of his last six holes to end his week with a 67 and move level par overall.

Make no mistake, a lot of things can change in six months of golf - but Britain's strong finish in Georgia will give Clarke plenty of food for thought with Hazeltine in mind.