WOBURN, England – Ian Poulter heads back to Royal Birkdale and the Open Championship looking to better his finish the last time the Open Championship was held on the course just north of Liverpool.
That means he aims to finish first. He was second to Padraig Harrington in 2008.
Poulter returned rounds of 70 and 68 around his home course of Woburn for a 6-under-par 138 total to claim one of three spots on offer. He finished in a tie for second with countryman Toby Tree, two shots behind top qualifier Shiv Kapur of India.
The Ryder Cup star holed a clutch 15-foot par putt on Royal Birkdale’s 18th hole in the final round of the 2008 Open Championship that he thought might win him the old claret jug, or at least get him into a playoff. However, Padraig Harrington eagled the par-5 17th hole and ran out a four shot winner to successfully defend the championship he won 12 months previously.
“As soon as I get there I will be pumped for the week,” Poulter admitted.
“Obviously going back to Birkdale after what happened in 2008 is special. You know I thought I had that 15-foot putt (on the 72nd) to maybe win or get in a playoff and then my Irish friend decided to go bananas on the last five holes. It was a great week, my best in a major. All my family and friends were there to see me play and after I finished (wife) Katie told me she was pregnant with Lily, so it was happy days that week.”
Earning a spot in the Open Championship means Poulter is on a run of five straight Opens.
“It means I will now play five Opens in a row. I played the French, I’m playing the Irish, Scottish, The Open and the Canadian Open.
“If I get into the WGC (Bridgestone Invitational) then that will be six big tournaments in a row, and I’ve got a chance to qualify for the PGA Championship which would be seven massive events in a row.”
Poulter is never short of confidence and feels he can compete at Royal Birkdale.
“Birkdale is my favourite Open venue because of 2008 and I’m looking forward to competing there. It’s going to be a busy run. It will be my fourth tournament in a row but it’s about managing my energy levels.”
A crowd of about 250 locals and members turned up to watch Poulter play in the company of English amateur Jack Singh Brar and Jeev Milkha Singh of India, who withdrew after shooting 75 in the morning.
Poulter has been associated with Woburn since 2002 as the club’s tournament professional and knows the Marquess Course well.
“It would have been disappointing to miss out, especially around this course. I would have been expected to have qualified and I guess you can say job well done.”
Former Purdue player Kapur made a 4,167-mile round trip from his home in New Delhi to tee it up at Woburn. He will play in only his third Open Championship. European Challenge Tour player Tree will make his Open Championship debut at Royal Birkdale.