Poulter encouraged by runner-up finish in Turkey

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Ian Poulter hit a spectacular bunker shot Sunday to set up a 6-foot birdie putt that would put him in a playoff with Brooks Koepka at the Turkish Airlines Open.

To avoid standing in his playing competitor’s line, Poulter allowed Lee Westwood to putt first, from virtually the same spot.

Westwood made it.

Poulter stepped in, missed his putt low, lost by one and said afterward that it was “probably a bad thing” that he watched Westwood’s birdie putt. 

“I think he pushed it slightly and it fell in the right edge,” Poulter said. “I knew my putt was going to break right to left. I hit what I thought was right edge on a decent pace, and it broke across the hole. 

“So I don’t know whether he pushed his too much, or whether I read way too much into it. It might have been better if I had to hit my putt first.”

It was a disappointing end to a strange weekend for Poulter, who had a six-shot lead after 36 holes but found himself trailing by one heading into the final round. His final-round 67 wasn’t enough to catch Koepka (65), who earned his first European Tour title.

“To have a bad round on Saturday is inexcusable, and that’s what happens,” Poulter said of his third-round 75, which left him one back of little-known Wade Ormsby. “There are good players out here week-in and week-out, and you need to play four good rounds of golf. It’s that simple.”

Still, the runner-up finish – on the heels of last week’s T-6 in Shanghai – represents progress for Poulter, considering 2014 was one of the most disappointing years of his career. Battling injuries, he recorded just one top 10 on the PGA Tour and didn’t rise to the occasion at the Ryder Cup, recording a 0-1-2 record. 

His recent equipment change (from Cobra to Titleist) has taken quicker than anticipated, however, and Poulter now says he’s playing “great” heading into next week’s season finale in Dubai.

“To come into the back-end of the year as bad as 2014 has been, the last two weeks have been pretty good,” he said. “For me to play this well over this stretch of tournaments with new equipment in the bag is very pleasing. That was potentially a worry. 

“Sitting at 44 in the world is not the best scenario to be in” – the top 50 at year’s end are exempt into all 2015 majors and WGC events – “but to know I can play well with the new equipment, I can’t be any happier with that.”