Two glasses of wine and a dollop of ice cream was all Rory McIlroy could manage by way of celebration following his stirring victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday.

He started to watch the highlights but got as far as his chip-in on the 15th and fell asleep. 

The real perk of ending his 18-month winless run, however, was written all over his face as he prepared to get back on the horse on Wednesday in a tricky game against Peter Uihlein in the WGC-Match Play Championship. 

Rory McIlroy took a real confidence boost ahead of the Masters by ending his winless run

Rory McIlroy took a real confidence boost ahead of the Masters by ending his winless run

The Northern Irishman lifted the Arnold Palmer Invitational for his first trophy in 18 months

The Northern Irishman lifted the Arnold Palmer Invitational for his first trophy in 18 months

The Northern Irishman lifted the Arnold Palmer Invitational for his first trophy in 18 months

He is preparing to face Peter Uihlein in the WGC-Match Play Championship on Wednesday

He is preparing to face Peter Uihlein in the WGC-Match Play Championship on Wednesday

He is preparing to face Peter Uihlein in the WGC-Match Play Championship on Wednesday

Imagine if he’d gone into this event with its volatile format — his last before the Masters — still wondering where the next win was coming from and still saddled with his worst world ranking for a decade. 

‘It’s great to have got the win and now I’ve got all that great stuff that happened on Sunday to fall back on, not just for Augusta but the whole season,’ he reasoned. 

‘It’s validation of what I’ve been working on and fills me with optimism that I can go ahead and do this more often.’

With the world’s top four as well as McIlroy — now back up to seventh, from 13th — in attendance, it is only natural to focus on the big names but this event might offer more by way of opportunity for those lower down the list.

Trophy success last week saw McIlroy rise up the rankings to world No 7 from his previous 13th

Trophy success last week saw McIlroy rise up the rankings to world No 7 from his previous 13th

Trophy success last week saw McIlroy rise up the rankings to world No 7 from his previous 13th

Take Ian Poulter, a former winner who has clambered back into the world’s top 65 to qualify for his first WGC event for three years. 

He remains a long way from the shortlist for Europe’s Ryder Cup team for Paris but the picture would change dramatically with a deep run here in this format where he made his name.

‘Of course, it’s an opportunity,’ said the 42-year-old. ‘Every other week you’re trying to beat 155 other guys to win a stroke play tournament but if I beat seven players over the next five days I’ll have won and picture what that will do for my career.’

In preparation for Wednesday’s clash with Tommy Fleetwood, and inspired by McIlroy’s putting heroics last week, Poulter has dusted off his magic wand from Medinah in 2012, which hasn’t seen the light of day for five years. 

The WGC-Match Play Championship is a major chance for Ian Poulter to turn his form around

The WGC-Match Play Championship is a major chance for Ian Poulter to turn his form around

The WGC-Match Play Championship is a major chance for Ian Poulter to turn his form around

‘I’m working on getting my mojo on the greens back, like Rory last week,’ he said. ‘My tee to green stats have been amazing this year and if I putted like I did back in the day my results would be vastly different.’ 

Poulter and Fleetwood are in a mini-Ryder Cup group against Kevin Chappell and Daniel Berger, both of whom made America’s Presidents Cup team last year and have aspirations to be in France in September.

‘On paper I’m the underdog to come through as the lowest-ranked player but we all know anything is possible over 18 holes,’ argued Poulter. ‘I can’t wait to get started.’

Poulter and Tommy Fleetwood have a mini-Ryder Cup facing Kevin Chappell and Daniel Berger

Poulter and Tommy Fleetwood have a mini-Ryder Cup facing Kevin Chappell and Daniel Berger

Poulter and Tommy Fleetwood have a mini-Ryder Cup facing Kevin Chappell and Daniel Berger

Fleetwood had a typically wry take when asked about taking on a ‘match-play ninja’ in Poulter. 

‘I’ve never gone up against a ninja before so it promises to be a new experience,’ he said. ‘Do I need a samurai sword as well as my golf clubs?’

US Open champion Brooks Koepka will miss the Masters as he recovers from a wrist injury.

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