ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Living the dream isn’t easy.
Being a global superstar may bring rich rewards and a nice lifestyle, but it has its drawbacks, too.
Just ask Ian Poulter.
Poulter is one of many Europeans who base themselves in the United States, play the PGA Tour full-time and maintain a European Tour card. Luke Donald, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey do as well.
The above players not only have to rack up the air miles to maintain European Tour membership and earn Ryder Cup points, but there’s an innate loyalty to play in Europe. Problem is, flying back and forth across the Atlantic soon takes its toll.
“Everyone expects you to play in certain tournaments, but it’s not as easy as everyone thinks,” Poulter said. “We want to play because it’s our home tour and we are committed to it, but it’s harder than it looks on paper.”
The Englishman moved his family over to Orlando, Fla., two years ago. His children go to school there. Naturally, when he signs his card after the final round of a tournament, he immediately thinks of heading home. That’s no easy task when you’re in Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Singapore.
“The bottom line is my family,” Poulter said. “They come first, so I’m going to base my schedule around the amount of time I can spend with them. That’s only right.”
As for playing overseas, Poulter is like every other top sportsman. He wants to perform at his best every time he tees it up. It’s harder to do when you’re hopping back and forth across the Atlantic.
“People don’t understand how hard it is to fly back and forth,” he said. “It’s true that I am lucky enough to fly first-class and I can be more comfortable. I appreciate being able to do that, but it takes a lot out of you physically and mentally. If I’m flying nine hours from one tournament to the next through time zones, then it has an effect. I just don’t perform as well as I should when I’m flying all over the globe.”
Ken Brown found that out to his detriment in the 1980s. Brown, a four-time Ryder Cup player, held cards on the PGA Tour and European Tour for three years in the mid-1980s. During a two-year stretch, the Scotsman made 25 transatlantic trips.
“It nearly killed me,” Brown said. “I was exhausted at most tournaments, and my golf suffered badly.”
Poulter knows where Brown is coming from.
Poulter spent less time traveling last year, and it paid dividends.
“I made a conscious decision to travel less last year, and I had the best year of my career,” Poulter said. “That has to tell me something.”
Loyalty might be Poulter’s biggest problem. He is expected to play in Europe’s big events. Often, that means a transatlantic flight from a PGA Tour stop to, say, Wentworth for the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event.
Poulter hasn’t played at Wentworth since 2007. One reason is the Wentworth greens, which he has never putted well on. He’s missed the cut in six out of eight starts in the tour’s marquee event.
The Englishman shouldn’t have green issues this year. Wentworth’s greens have been totally re-designed.
Factor in the Celtic Manor Wales Open two weeks later and Poulter has a major scheduling problem. Celtic Manor offers Europe’s Ryder Cup team the chance of a sneak preview of the Ryder Cup venue later this year. However, Poulter wants to play in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial on the PGA Tour the week in between. He finished eighth there last year and 15th the year before.
“There is pressure to play at Wentworth and at Celtic Manor, but I feel I have a chance at Colonial, a course I absolutely love,” Poulter said. “So what do I do? Do I play at Wentworth, fly to Fort Worth and play Colonial and then back to Wales?
“I want to keep everyone happy, but at the same time I don’t want to run myself down and risk ruining my chances for the rest of the season. But if I don’t play, I’ll get criticized for it.
“Don’t get me wrong; it’s a nice problem to have. But I just don’t think people realize how hard it is physically and mentally to fly back and forth and then try and compete at your best. No one ever writes that, but it needs to be said.”
It has, Ian. It has.