Ian Poulter weathers winds of change at The Players, on PGA Tour

Ian Poulter-The Players Championship-Round 3 Michael Madrid/USA TODAY Sports

Ian Poulter weathers winds of change at The Players, on PGA Tour

PGA Tour

Ian Poulter weathers winds of change at The Players, on PGA Tour

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla.— Ian Poulter boring? 

That’s how he described his The Players Championship golf tournament Saturday after posting Round 3’s only bogey-free round in high winds.  A 71 put this Englishman three back of co-leaders J.B. Holmes and Kyle Stanley heading into Sunday’s finale.

Far removed from the intense pressure of playing for his livelihood over the last few months, Poulter says the only pressure he faced this week came late Friday as he pondered the embarrassment of driving by while his family was on their way up from Orlando.

“You don’t want to be passing them on the way back home if you play bad,” he said as the entire Poulter clan watched from the interview room amphitheater.

“I was playing under some pressure to make sure I had a lie-in for today because I didn’t want them to get up here, and I didn’t want to be setting an alarm for six in the morning to get them out of bed on a Saturday morning. So I think that was on my mind yesterday.”

Thanks to Brian Gay questioning major medical extension points allocations, Poulter’s points were redistributed and he’s now enjoying a lifeline this week by teeing up in an event he would not otherwise have been eligible for had Gay not raised questions.  

“I feel like obviously the door has been opened. I want to walk through that door. I want to press forward and keep playing good golf.”

Poulter is succeeding on crisp iron play (5th strokes gained approach play) and recovery play around the greens (3rd strokes gained). Normally one of the game’s elite putters, the 41-year-old has been struggling on the greens since “strangling” his putter down the stretch at Hilton Head. Then again, that day he was in his second-to-last medical exemption start attempting to retain top 125 status.

While suggesting he was struggling on the newly re-grassed greens at TPC Sawgrass over the first two rounds, Poulter said his putting improved significantly.

“I felt more comfortable over those six, seven-footers,” he said. “That hasn’t happened quite so much in the last 18 months. And you know, it was always going to be tricky in the wind, as well, putting from inside seven feet was awkward, but I did a very good job of that today when I found myself out of position. So it was a very boring round of golf. I felt as if I was under control from start to finish.”

His last PGA Tour Top 5 came in the 2016 Puerto Rico Open before a steady slide ultimately led to him shutting down due to a foot injury.  Poulter’s best and only top 20 Players finish came in 2009 when he finished second and pocketed $1,026,000.

Regarding this week’s earnings, directly attributable to fellow Orlando resident Brian Gay calling tour accounting rules into question, Poulter says he’s already “done something quite nice” but there might be more gifts on the way for the Gays.

“They like red wine and champagne, and I know Kimberly likes the odd treatment, so yeah, I’m sure they’ll be quite happy.”

While a paycheck from The Players’ huge purse or even the top prize would be a career defining moment for Poulter, the reinvigorated Englishman mentioned an upcoming push to secure his status, with goals of qualifying for the U.S. Open and Open Championship. He also wants to support European Tour Chief Executive’s new Rolex Series events and return to his homeland.

“I want to free the calendar up to go back and enjoy some time back in the UK with obviously Katie and the kids.”

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