I turned up at 10 (p.m.) and had a little look at the 18th green, Ian Poulter smiled. Security guards came out, What are you doing? So that was my first look and then I got escorted off in a wagon.
Poulter was joking, of course. The mans wardrobe has made him almost immediately recognizable particularly on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. What may be different about this Open Championship, Poulters eighth, is that the Englishmans play over the past 12 months has made him much more than simply a fashion favorite.
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Poulter has never lacked for confidence, but at TPC Sawgrass that confidence reached a new level.
At TPC I felt like I had the game for the biggest tournaments, Poulter said in an interview with GolfChannel.com. I certainly believe that I have the game to win by how Ive played over the last six months.
It was 12 months ago at Royal Birkdale where he began to take the form of the worlds No. 2. Poulter began the blustery final round six shots behind Greg Norman, birdied three of his last 10 holes and finished runner-up, four behind Padraig Harrington, for his best finish in a major.
Before Birkdale, Poulter was a non-story at the games biggest events, posting just a single top-10 finish in his previous 22 Grand Slam starts.
The confidence born from Birkdale lasted through Septembers Ryder Cup. Europe may have lost Samuel Ryders chalice, but it wasnt because of a lack of effort from Poulter. The captains pick was a workhorse for Nick Faldo, playing all five matches, the only European to do that, and earning four points, by far the losing sides top performance.
In many ways his Valhalla showing was gratifying, particularly because of the media-driven criticism leveled on Faldo before the matches for picking Poulter.
To come out the leading points earner at the Ryder Cup was huge for me because I was being told I didnt deserve my spot, Poulter said. I wanted to play as good as I could and I was just proud to go out there under those conditions and perform.
Poulters solid play continued in 2009. Hes missed just two of 11 cuts on the PGA Tour, including his runner-up at Sawgrass and a tie for 18th at last months U.S. Open. He also was third two weeks ago at the French Open to climb into the top 20 in the world ranking for the first time.
Interestingly, it is limited expectations that may make him a player to watch at Turnberry. Although hes never limited his potential at any event hes ever played, on Tuesday he dismissed his status as a growing favorite.
Ive often gone out with too many expectations and its not worked, Poulter said. Im not going out there having the mindset on Thursday morning I have to win, I have to win, I have to win. Im going out there to play a round of golf.
Thats unassuming ground for a player who was quoted in a magazine article last year as saying, When I play to my potential I just feel there will only be me and Tiger Woods. There's no one else I rate that highly.
Thats not to say Poulter has toned down his refreshingly honest assessments of his game or the state of the game.
At last months U.S. Open Poulter chided the U.S. Golf Associations decision not to use lift, clean and place rules at Bethpage as a schoolboy error.
Nor is Poulter inclined to tone down his wardrobe. Normally cryptic about his lineup for Open Championship week, Poulter offered a vague preview of what to expect from him on Thursday: Ill have a red, white and blue cashmere Cardigan with a Union Jack for Thursday.
As for what to expect from his game, his record would suggest hes closer to that No. 2 ranking than anyone ever envisioned.