“Apart from the one on the 12th, all those other putts I would’ve expected to
get,” he said. “My iron-play was as good as its been for a long time.” He
then proceeded to list how close he had it in his procession – “four feet,
seven feet, four feet…”
The 36 year-old gave a taste of the brilliance to come when floating in a
sand-wedge – to a few millimetres – on the 384-yard fourth. “It had to work
very hard to stay out,” said Poulter.
His sole bogey followed on the seventh but then the flag-spotting began.
“That’s because I felt myself again on the golf course, and was able to turn
on and turn off, and not think about anything other than golf,” he said. “I
do fill my brain with funny things at time and it’s nice when it’s empty.”
For the last two years, nine months, his mind has been full of the house he
has had built from scratch at Lake Nona. It has been a tale of
sub-contracting hell. “Brutal,” was his description. “But now we’re going to
spend our first night as a family there on Sunday.
“Last week, was spent just emptying boxes, without any short-game practice at
all. It’s no surprise to be fresh of mind here. Finally my family and I are
happy. We’re in the house and the stress and hassle is over. I can just go
out and play golf.”
Sawgrass provides the type of golf Poulter enjoys – demanding. He finished up
runner-up here three years ago when only an inspired Henrik Stenson kept him
from landing the title known in America as ‘the fifth major’.
“I do like tough courses,” said Poulter. “It focuses my mind. I’m excited to
see what happens on the weekend.”
As will Laird. The US-based Glaswegian was by far the best of the afternoon
starters, posting seven birdies and no bogeys. Laird has already won in
Florida – last year at Bay Hill – and is such an established member of the
PGA Tour his chance should not be discounted. Lee Westwood is six back after
a 71, while Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald are one further back.
If only Tiger Woods could have hitched a ride on Poulter’s self-belief. While
one is flying high, the other has failed lamentably to launch any sort of
Of course, Poulter would have found absolutely no extra joy whatsoever in
juxtaposing his first-round 65 to Woods’ 74. Last month, Woods was quoted in
memoirs from a former coach of calling Poulter “a dick” for scrounging a
lift on his private jet.That was back in the day when the sky was no limit
for a sporting icon.
Now it threatens to fall in on him, as he follows two flops with yet more
mediocrity. Could we really be about to witness Woods missing two cuts in
succession for the first time, following on from last week’s Quail Hollow
After this two-over display of sloppiness he definitely faces a fight. Woods’
swing is a confused mess and whatever he claims, his confidence is low.
“My good shots ended up in bad spots and my bad shots ended up in worse
spots,” he said, trying to make the fates shoulder some of the blame. “It
was just one of those days.”
The truth is, those days are arriving with alarming regularity. This was the
ninth round in a row he has failed to break 70 and in the last two weeks his
chipping has been particularly woeful.
He is unrecognisable from the golfer who won in such an assured style at Bay
Hill three starts ago.
At least he has lasted longer than his last two appearances at Sawgrass; both
times he withdrew during the first round with injury. Alas, his game remains
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