Walking the Walk

By Rich LernerFebruary 26, 2010, 12:06 am

Waste Management Phoenix OpenSCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Fresh off his first win in the U.S., Ian Poulter is changing American hearts and minds, one day and one win at a time. At the rate he’s going, he’ll soon have a gallery full of fans in teal, plaid slacks.

“Honestly, before I played with him I thought he was kind of flashy and arrogant,” said

Edison Peres, Poulter’s pro-am partner Wednesday at the Waste Management Open. “But he’s much more real and down to earth than I expected, like your next door neighbor.”

Peres is a senior vice president for Cisco Systems and has played in several pro-ams.

“Some pros don’t want to be there,” he said. “But with Ian it’s like a Sunday round with your buddies. Everyone wanted to take a picture with him and he accommodated them all. These are the kind of characters you want in golf.”

Mark and Erin Montgomery, vacationing from Richmond, Va., followed Poulter for a few holes.

“He talked to us for a little while and he was very pleasant,” Mark said. “I guess we thought he was a little more arrogant but maybe that’s the clothing. He was receptive.”

Poulter is well aware of his public perception, or rather misconception.

“I guess the misconception may be that I’m arrogant or cocky,” he told me as we walked during the pro-am. “But anybody who knows me understands that’s not really true.”

Not surprisingly, people look at Poulter with his bold outfits and Paris runway model strut and make assumptions.

“Of course they do,” Poulter added. “Because appearance is what people first get drawn to and I guess if I’m going to put myself out there in colorful outfits and looking different than the others then yes people are going to have their own opinions of why I’m doing it and what is his reason for doing it.

“But, to be honest, I just want to present myself on the golf course as well as I can. I always make sure that my stuff is ironed and pressed and you know I just want to take pride in how I do my job.”

That sounds a lot like Payne Stewart. And the Tour gives an award in his name every year to the player who presents himself in a manner that lifts the game.

Professional golf is still a show and if everyone dressed in khakis, well…“we’d be in trouble,” Poulter said finishing my thought. “Golf wouldn’t be half as interesting as it is.”

As a teenager, Poulter watched Stewart from behind the counter of the pro shop at his local club in England. Poulter left school at 15 to become an assistant pro and was a 4 handicap at the time.

“I was selling Mars bars and tee pegs,” he recalled. “And I guess coming from where I came from, dressing the way I do and being fairly outspoken I don’t think people felt that I could back it up or that I had. Now I can back it up.”

As he said it I thought that might come out in print as being arrogant, but knowing full well that it wasn’t, that it was just the declaration of a man who truly believes in himself.

“I do feel that if I play to my potential I’ve got a good chance to achieve anything I want,” he added. “That’s just what I’ve believed in for a while and last week to me proves that I’ve delivered on a bigger stage than what I’ve ever delivered in the past. But I’d felt that I’d been close. It just hadn’t come out yet.”

After his Match Play victory, Poulter spent a full day in Palm Springs shooting a TV commercial for Cobra. He’s had little time for reflection although he’s been asked to reflect several times in that same span.

“I don’t know what it means because I haven’t had time to sit down to work out what it means,” he said. But I said to Terry [Mundy], my caddie, walking to the range today, when I get a phone call from Greg Norman to say ‘Ian I just want to congratulate you for a great week’ and to have a call from Faldo, and a text message from Monty, I mean these were people I looked up to when I worked in the pro shop.”

Poulter is a virtual lock to play for Captain Monty at the Ryder Cup in Wales in early October. Monty and Poulter have had their differences, particularly over Poulter’s decision to skip last year’s Vivendi Trophy in Paris, a Ryder Cup style match between GB&I and Continental Europe.

This summer, Monty is hoping his Ryder Cup stalwarts show up at Celtic Manor for the regularly scheduled European Tour stop as a way to get comfortable with the course. It doesn’t sound like Poulter will be there because of a hectic schedule during that time.

“I’m doing a Mastercard golf outing at Celtic Manor the Monday of the French Open in June so I’ll get a really good look at the golf course,” he said. “So if I don’t play it’s not like I wouldn’t have been there.”

He’s also quick to point out that he had not seen Valhalla until Tuesday the week of the Ryder Cup and ended up playing pretty well there, going 4-0-1 as the only bright spot for the Europeans in a losing effort.

Near term, he’ll take next week off then play Doral. He’ll then take two weeks off before the Masters, but won’t just be ironing his clothes.

“I’ll go up to Augusta for three days during those two weeks off, do some homework so I can get it all done before the tournament,” he said. “I love that place.”

Poulter broke momentarily from our conversation, and turned his attention to Mundy, who has been on his bag for four years.

“Two-fifty-five to the front,” said Mundy, directing his boss to the second shot at the par-5 15th at TPC Scottsdale.

He handed his man a 3-wood. Poulter sets up beautifully over a golf ball, just the right knee flex, arms hanging with absolutely no tension. He swung in perfect balance. The ball took off low, steadily rising and dead at the flag, landing softly on the front of the green.

Poulter smiled and ambled down the fairway, and from the eyes of those fortunate to have seen it, this was not an arrogant man strutting away, but a content man walking with purpose.

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Fowler among 5 to skip WGC-Match Play

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 2:24 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Five of the top 64 players in the world will skip next week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott all will miss the second WGC event of the year, held next week at Austin Country Club.

As a result, the last man into the field is world No. 69 Luke List. Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Joost Luiten and Keegan Bradley also got into the field.

Julian Suri and Bill Haas are the first two alternates, if anyone else withdraws from the round-robin-style match-play event.

This is the second year in a row that Rose, Fowler, Stenson and Scott will not play in Austin. Koepka reached the quarterfinals each of the past two years, but he is still recovering from a wrist injury.

The final seeding for the event will be determined after this week’s tournaments. The bracket show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, live on Golf Channel.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.