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Poulter on career high

He was a four-handicapper when he turned professional 16 years ago and he started out selling chocolate bars and tee pegs.

But now Ian Poulter is the first English golfer to win an individual World Golf Championship title.

Not only that, the 34-year-old from Woburn is up to a career-high fifth in the world, just behind Lee Westwood and just ahead of Paul Casey -- the player he beat 4&2 in yesterday's 36-hole final of the Accenture Match Play in Arizona.

And there is more. Poulter is nearly £900,000 richer, has his first US Tour win, leads the European money list and looks a certainty for a third Ryder Cup cap in October -- there will be no need for a wildcard this time.

Poulter was Nick Faldo's controversial pick (along with Casey) for the last match against the Americans, but responded with four points out of five and was the top scorer on either side.

Best known prior to that for finishing runner-up to Padraig Harrington at the Open that year -- and, of course, for his extrovert clothes -- he has gone from strength to strength from the humblest of beginnings in the sport.

"It feels really, really nice -- it's been a long time coming," said the Hitchin-born golfer, whose claim two years ago that he had the talent to reach second in the world behind Tiger Woods was met with derision.

Now, with Woods out of the game indefinitely, it is far from out of the question that he could be the man to topple him from top spot in the coming months.

"I know Paul's disappointed, but I'm very happy," he added after sending Casey to his second successive runners-up finish in the event.

"I knew I was in great form and I felt calm all day: nerves didn't play any factor at all. I've never felt more comfortable."

He puts a lot of that down to how he coped with the scrutiny at the last Ryder Cup after many people felt he should have been left out for Darren Clarke.

Like Poulter, Casey is among the players European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie will want involved at Celtic Manor later this year and the Cheltenham-born 32-year-old paid tribute to his fellow Englishman after missing out on the WGC crown.

He said: "Ian played excellent golf. There were a lot of shots I wanted to pull off and didn't, but he did a fantastic job.

"I don't feel physically tired, I feel mentally tired, but I am not making excuses.

"There are a lot of positives to come out of this week for me."