LEMONT, Ill. – Ian Poulter put the long walk between the 10th green and the 11th tee at the BMW Championship to good use.
Poulter, who needs a strong performance this week to advance to the Tour Championship, opened with a double bogey on 10 on Thursday. But he calmed himself down as he walked the 250 yards that separate 10 and 11, and went on to post the best score of the afternoon groups.
Poulter was third at 5-under 66, two strokes behind leader Matt Kuchar.
“I was glad it was a long walk from the 10th green to the 11th tee, that’s all I can say,” he said. “Double bogey is not how you want to start the third FedEx event. I suppose the only good way of looking at it is there’s 71 holes to go. I bounced back pretty good.”
Poulter made birdies on the long par 3s on the back nine, eagled the par-5 15th hole and chipped in on 18 from 20 yards for another birdie to make the turn at 4 under.
“I wasn’t really worried, I just didn’t want to start with a double. Especially on that easy of a hole,” Poulter said of the 10th, which produced just eight bogeys and two doubles Thursday.
And not in this tournament.
Poulter missed out on the Tour Championship at last year’s BMW by the slimmest of margins. He dunked his approach into the water on the final hole and made bogey, leaving him outside the top 30 by less than half a point, the smallest margin in the three-year history of the series.
Poulter came to the BMW in 44th place in the FedEx Cup standings, and estimated he needs a top-10 finish to make the Tour Championship in two weeks.
“They had to take it down to a decimal point. I don’t want no decimal points this year,” Poulter said. “I’m going to win this golf tournament and I want to win at East Lake and I want to go and enjoy myself at the Ryder Cup. So that’s my goal.”
NOT A FAN: There are putt-putt courses Phil Mickelson would enjoy more than Cog Hill.
Mickelson has made no secret of his dislike for Cog Hill, the longtime home of the Western Open that is now one of the rotating sites of the BMW Championship. His contempt has only grown since Rees Jones renovated it ahead of last year’s BMW.
“It’s interesting,” Mickelson said when asked his impressions of the course after shooting a 1-over 72 Thursday.
There was some thought Lefty might even skip the third round of the FedEx Cup. He’s at 14th in the standings after the first two events, and most likely would have made the Tour Championship even if he’d stayed home this week.
He’s here, but he skipped the pro-am to play at Butler National – a course clearly more to his liking.
“That’s in great shape,” he said. “The greens there were just pristine, and I had a nice, relaxing day.”
SHARP-DRESSED MAN: Ryan Moore’s snazzy duds drew as much attention as his score.
Moore did his best Bobby Jones imitation at the BMW Championship on Thursday, wearing a tie tucked beneath his black sweater.
“I bought it a couple of days ago,” he said. “I was just walking around a store and thought, `You know, I might wear some ties this week.’ Just sounded good. I saw the weather was only going to be about 70 to 75 degrees. I can definitely handle a sweater and tie in those temperatures.”
While most players sport clothes from major labels—Nike, Ashworth, Adidas, just to name a few—Moore is his own man. The 27-year-old’s outfits come straight from his personal closet, and he favors looks that are a throwback to the Jones and Sam Snead eras.
He’d even consider breaking out a tweed jacket if it was cold enough.
“Everywhere I go, anywhere I’ve worn it, fans love it,” Moore said of his distinctive look. “That was certainly not the purpose at all. I love this look. I love that golf used to have that look, and I like to wear it when I can, when weather permits. That’s just how I like to look. It’s not for attention or anything like that.”
No, Moore gets enough with his game. He closed with five straight birdies, and his 29 on the back nine is a Cog Hill record. At 6-under 65, he’s a stroke behind leader Matt Kuchar.
“That’s just golf,” Moore said. “Just a great way to finish.”
OUCH!: Scott Verplank promised Charlie Wi a steak dinner for getting him into the BMW Championship.
He might want to buy his doctor one, too.
Verplank said Thursday his achy left wrist feels better than it has in weeks after having a cortisone shot Monday night. Verplank has been struggling with tendinitis most of the year, and it got so bad last week he withdrew from the second round of the Deutsche Bank Championship because he could no longer grip the club through his swing.
“It wasn’t very good for the first five, six, seven holes. After that it wasn’t that bad,” said Verplank, whose wrist was bound tightly with white tape and then covered with a black wrap. “It hurt a lot less today than it did any other time in the last two or three weeks.”
Verplank played the first five holes at 4 over, and finished with a 76. That’s 12 strokes behind first-round leader Matt Kuchar.
Verplank figured his season was over when he left Boston. But Wi birdied the last hole Monday to bump Verplank up to No. 70 in the FedEx Cup standings and put him in the field for the BMW. His doctors told him he wouldn’t damage the wrist any further by playing, so Verplank got the cortisone shot, his first of the year.
There are no alternates in the playoffs, so it wasn’t as if Verplank deprived someone else of a spot in the field.
“I probably shouldn’t have come here. But nothing’s going to split, splinter, explode or tear,” Verplank said. “I’ve been playing with it all year, anyway.”
AYE, AYE CAPTAIN: Ian Poulter could have a future as a Ryder Cup captain.
Asked what he thought of Corey Pavin’s picks for the U.S. team earlier this week, the Englishman said they didn’t come as any surprise. Tiger Woods was all but a lock, and many figured Pavin would pick Zach Johnson and Stewart Cink, major champions who have already played Ryder Cups on the road.
Pavin’s last pick, though, was Rickie Fowler, the first PGA Tour rookie to make a U.S. Ryder Cup team.
“They were the four picks that I would have chosen,” Poulter said Thursday. “Guys were discussing it for a few days … and I think they were most people’s picks.”
WORLD RANKING: Phil Mickelson’s meltdown in the final round at the TPC Boston will make his road to No. 1 a lot tougher at Cog Hill.
For Mickelson to go atop the world ranking for the first time in his career, he would have to finish no worse than second place by himself, and that’s provided Tiger Woods finishes out of the top seven.
Mickelson can go to No. 1 with a win no matter what Woods does.
Steve Stricker also has a chance at the BMW Championship. He would have to win, and have Woods finish out of the top 17 and Mickelson finish worse than second.