IRVINE, Scotland – Ian Poulter can achieve two things if he wins the $7 million Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open. He can hand the trophy to his son Luke and move back inside the world top 50.
While giving 13-year-old Luke the trophy would be a sentimental moment for the 41-year-old Englishman, getting back inside the world top 50 would fulfill a goal Poulter set for himself earlier this year.
Poulter is tied for the lead with countryman Callum Shinkwin and Australian Andrew Dodt at nine under par. Andy Sullivan lurks two shots behind at seven under.
The quartet deserve to be at the top of the leaderboard after a brutally tough day at Dundonald. Heavy rain and strong winds made scoring difficult. Sullivan returned a 5-under-par 67, the low round of the day. Poulter and Dodt scored 71s, while Shinkwin recorded a level-par 72.
Poulter hasn’t won since the 2012 WGC–HSBC Champions, but a victory the previous year was much more special. He won the 2011 Volvo World Match Play Championship and gave Luke a nice little surprise on his seventh birthday.
“The last trophy I handed to him was on his birthday,” Poulter revealed. “That was a nice phone call to make. I told him before I went out I’d hand him a trophy on his birthday and I did. It would be awesome to do it again.”
Poulter is currently enjoying a new lease of life. He initially lost his PGA Tour card earlier this year but was handed a reprieve after the PGA Tour admitted a clerical mistake in figuring out FedEx Cup points. That got him into the Players Championship. Poulter took full advantage by finishing second to guarantee PGA Tour playing rights for next season.
“The stresses were difficult to deal with because I felt I wasn’t getting everything out of my golf,” Poulter said about his position earlier in the year. “I was concerned but I wasn’t overly concerned because I knew to what standard of golf I was playing. It’s not the end of the world. I’m 41, I’m healthy, the kids are healthy and happy. At the end of the day, there are worst positions to be in. So if you take that mindset then if you have to step back a level to dig back in, then you just got to go through the process and keep going.
“There’s no question I feel better because of that. A lot of pressures came off my shoulders. I can get rid of expectations and just go out on the course and play golf. I know everything’s good. I know my game’s good and I’m happy. And if I’m in a happy place like most people in life you can do good things. If you let other stuff get to you then you can make things more difficult for yourself.”
That’s why Poulter believed getting back into the top 50 was realistic. He targeted world top 50 after qualifying for the Open Championship.
“Getting into the top 50 is doable with this run of tournaments coming up. That means getting into the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship.”
He’s in a good position to get himself into those events with a win Sunday.
Shinkwin’s position at the top of the leaderboard is surprising given his run of tournaments between the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and BMW International Open read: MC-MC-MC-MC-MC-MC-DQ-DQ-WD.
The 2013 Walker Cup player may have been inspired playing with Poulter. Shinkwin first met the Ryder Cup star in Poulter’s Junior Invitational day at Woburn Golf Club when he was just 13 playing off a six handicap.
Now he has a chance to upstage the master himself. Just don’t expect Poulter to go soft on his young protégé. Remember, he’s promised to hand Luke another trophy.