Englishman ends most ‘miserable’ spell of his career as he takes advantage of foul-up over medical exemption rules
IAN POULTER’S heroics at the Players’ Championship have stopped him feeling like a ‘bottom feeder’ among the big fish on the PGA Tour.
Poulter says his remarkable display to finish joint runner-up at Sawgrass – after being thrown a lifeline because of a foul-up over the medical exemption rules – ended the most “miserable” spell of his career.
He explained: “It felt like I was swimming at the bottom of an empty pool for a little while, flapping around without getting anywhere.
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“So it is nice to fill the pool up again and feel like I’m not touching the bottom.
“This feels like a victory. Something good had to happen because I’ve felt for a while that I’ve been playing really good golf, but you can’t come out and say that when you’re finishing 11th, 15th or twenty-something.
“The results just haven’t been there. But this was a massive week for me, to play the way I have played and to take some pressure off the rest of the year.
“The last 18 months have been the toughest stretch of my career. It has been miserable. There’s no other way to describe it.
“When you take a break for several months, like I did when I had my foot injury, your world-ranking plummets. I missed a Ryder Cup, and I was constantly having to chase to keep my Tour card.
“I’m still working through some things. But I’ve reached 75 per cent of where I want to be. I have some issues that I am going through, but playing good golf takes care of a lot of that.
“So we’re getting there. and I can look forward to the summer now. I can plan a very long schedule and know exactly what I’m doing. I’m certainly going to have a nice summer with the kids in the UK.
“A positive mindset is key to playing good golf. Having Katie and the kids make the short trip over for the weekend meant it was a good week to feel relaxed and go out and play so well. I enjoyed it, and that hasn’t been the case very often recently.
“I could possibly play Wentworth next week now that I’m in a more secure position over here. I have to work that out. But I think I’ll be playing a lot in Europe this summer.”
Poulter, 41, admits the widely fluctuating emotions he felt playing the final hole matched anything he has experience in the Ryder Cup – even when his birdie spree sparked the Miracle at Medinah five years ago.
He carved his second shot from the rough into a bush off the side of a grandstand, and had to take a penalty drop.
But he then produced a sublime ship, almost holing it to escape with a bogey.
That earned him a share of second place with Louis Osthuizen, three shots behind 21 year old Korean phenomenon Si Woo Kim.
He added: “The 18th is all about not having a disaster. I had a semi-disaster, but recovered it nicely with a crazy fourth shot.
“That shot is definitely one for the memory bank. The second is one I would like to erase from the memory bank – and I already have.
“I just have to take all my enjoyment out of the fourth shot. It was windy. I was in the trees and there was a branch I had to get up and over pretty quickly.
“The breeze was pushing the ball towards the water. And I had to land it on a downslope, feeding it towards the pin and the water.
“I had a full yardage with a sand-iron and obviously executed it very well. It was nice to hit it stone dead and have a good finish.”
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It has to be the five Ian Poulter conjured up from the pine straw to the left of the final hole at Sawgrass. His chip to tap-in range will be replayed countless times over the years.
SAY THAT AGAIN
Poulter (again – well, he was the man of the week) offering a brutally honest verdict on his second shot at 18: “Make no mistake – it was a total shank, a full one. Yeah, I’m calling it that – would you like me to spell it for you?”
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