Poulters game finally matches his bravado

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2008, 4:00 pm
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Open ChampionshipSOUTHPORT, England ' Ian Poulter strolled quickly toward the parking lot at Royal Birkdale, his wife and their two young kids tailing along. Off in the distance, they were still cheering for Padraig Harrington as he posed with the claret jug on the 18th green under a slowly setting sun.
 
As he zigzagged between the vehicles, Poulter suddenly challenged his children ' 6-year-old Aimee-Leigh and 4-year-old Luke ' to a race. They sprinted toward the car, daddy getting there first.
 
Poulter threw up his arms, dancing around giddily before they all piled in.
 
Hey, who says he wasnt a winner Sunday?
 
Ian Poulter
Ian Poulter receives the second-place silver salver. (Getty Images)
Nattily dressed and groomed as always, Poulter made his most sustained run yet at fulfilling the lofty expectations he has of himself, most notably spelled out when he was quoted as saying there was no reason he couldnt be No. 2 in the world behind Tiger Woods if he played to his full potential.
 
Plenty of people were amused at Poulters bravado, especially since hes known more what he pulls out of the closet ' he went with the peach-colored slacks on this day ' than what he pulls out of the bag. Sure, he had eight victories around the world, but none on the PGA TOUR. And he never finished higher than ninth in a major.
 
Maybe everyone will stop snickering now. Poulter finally showed a game to justify all the flash.
 
He was No. 2 at the British Open, sending the English galleries into a frenzy as he made a charge that briefly brought him into a tie with Padraig Harrington. Alas, the Irishman played brilliantly down the stretch, with two birdies and an eagle on the last six holes to win going away.
 
But Poulter, who matched Harrington with a 1-under 69 on a blustery, brutal course in the pressure cooker of a major championship, proved he might just be worthy of that high opinion he has of himself.
 
Ive known that I can perform and I can play good, Poulter said. I guess Im just trying to let that come out in me. You know, Ive certainly put in a decent show today. Theres plenty more in me, and I know I can go better. On that side of it, yeah, Im fairly happy how Ive played today, and Ill take a lot of confidence from that.
 
Poulter started the final round six shots behind leader Greg Norman, and didnt appear to be much of a factor when he bogeyed two of the first three holes. But the 32-year-old Englishman steadied himself in the howling breeze, stringing together four straight pars, then pumped up the home crowd by rolling in a birdie at No. 9.
 
With Norman fading and Harrington going through a stretch of three consecutive bogeys, Poulters name began to climb the leaderboard. He made another birdie at No. 11, then sent up a roar that could be heard all the way to Liverpool when he made an 18-footer for birdie at the 16th.
 
The ball rolled toward the cup, pulled right up to the edge as though it was going to stop, then dropped in with one final turn. Poulter let out a scream and pumped his fist several times. At that moment, he was tied for the lead with Harrington, who was playing five groups back with Norman in the final twosome.
 
I thought right then, Poulter said, I had a good chance to win.
 
Harrington heard the cheers and knew who was making a move. He didnt let it shake him, though.
 
When I was walking down 10, I heard a cheer and somebody shouting, Go on, Poulter, the eventual winner would say afterward. First of all I thought, Oh, he must be going well, and then I just put it to the back of my mind. I stayed focused on what I was doing.
 
He would go on to strike a brilliant 5-wood at the par-5 17th. When the ball stopped just 5 feet from the cup, Poulter ' watching in the clubhouse ' knew his chances of winning were nil. Harrington swiped it in for eagle, giving himself a hefty cushion going to the final hole.
 
All Poulter could do was watch the triumphant walk up the 18th fairway.
 
Maybe things would have been different if he had scored better at the 17th, as well as the other par-5 on the course, No. 15. Harrington played them at 3 under. Poulter could only manage a couple of pars, including a three-putt on the next-to-last hole, halting his comeback in its tracks.
 
Even when he rolled in a 15-footer to save par at No. 18, setting off one more big roar, it wasnt nearly enough. Harrington won with a 3-over 283, four shots ahead of Poulter.
 
But the runner-up had no complaints.
 
It was great buzz around the whole back nine, Poulter said. I dont think Ive enjoyed a week as much as I have this week. Its on home soil, the crowd has been absolutely awesome, theyve been driving me on.
 
To start holing putts around the back nine, to hear everybody screaming and shouting and driving you on is a massive adrenaline rush, a massive boost.
 
So, heres a guy who believes he can be No. 2 and claimed that spot at golfs oldest championship, even if Woods was back home in the States recovering from knee surgery. With his gelled-up hair defying the stiff breeze and a narrow line of whiskers running from the bottom lip down to the end of his chin, Poulter headed toward his car ' signing a few autographs along the way, taking in Well done, Ian a few more times.
 
Ive done my best, Poulter said. It hasnt quite been good enough. But Ill be back for lots more of this. Its a nice roller-coaster ride.
 
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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


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    J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

    Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.

    ''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''


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    Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.

    Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

    Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.

    She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.

    ''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''

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    Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

    Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

    ''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

    Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

    Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

    ''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

    It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.


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    Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

    Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

    The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

    ''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

    PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

    Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

    ''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

    It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

    He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

    ''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

    Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

    Later, he laughed about the moment.

    ''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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    Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

    By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

    Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

    Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

    The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

    “They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

    The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

    “Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”


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    Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

    “As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

    Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

    “Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.