By Tony Jimenez
LONDON (Reuters) - Ian Poulter added another chapter to his spectacular rags-to-riches story by landing the biggest victory of his career at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.
Contemporaries such as Paul Casey and Luke Donald made their names with excellent amateur performances but Poulter turned professional at 18 with a handicap of four and no national honors to his credit.
The young Briton wanted to play on the European Tour but three times failed to make it through Qualifying School. He finally achieved his goal at the fourth attempt and victory in the Italian Open helped him to become the 2000 Rookie of the Year.
Poulter gradually improved and a superb Ryder Cup display 18 months ago proved his top-class status. After a 4 & 2 victory over Casey in Sunday's 36-hole final at Dove Mountain he now proudly occupies fifth place in the world rankings.
"It feels amazing really to be in this situation," the 34-year-old Englishman told reporters. "It has been a long time coming and I am very happy.
"It is another goal I have achieved and hopefully we can now set our goals a little higher to kick on for the rest of the year."
Poulter was second in the 2008 British Open at Royal Birkdale and two months later justified captain Nick Faldo's decision to pick him as a Ryder Cup wildcard, collecting four points out of five in Europe's defeat by the United States in Kentucky.
"I just felt very comfortable on the course," said Poulter after landing his ninth European Tour win. "I told my caddie on the front nine today: 'I feel really calm and I don't feel nervous'.
"I felt in control all week and...felt as if my game was good enough to keep attacking those pins."
With Poulter fifth in the rankings and compatriots Casey (sixth) and Lee Westwood (fourth) also flying high, he said the pressure was building up to end the long wait for an English major winner.
"An Englishman hasn't won a major for a long time," he said referring to Faldo's victory in the 1996 U.S. Masters.
"It's about time the guys that have put themselves in position four, five and six in the world...should step up to the plate and hopefully deliver.
"There's been a lot of great talent for a long time and it's so nice to see guys actually deliver on the golf course," added Poulter.
(Editing by Clare Fallon)