A minute later, he was off again, running to his bag, grabbing two clubs and then hustling to No. 18. He yelled ahead to Phil Mickelson and Martin Laird, clearing the path for another tee shot.
No doubt, Poulter wanted to get done before dark.
And he did.
Poulter’s frantic finish offered an entertaining ending to the third round Saturday at The Players Championship. It certainly will be replayed on highlight shows everywhere. But Poulter did it for a more selfish reason.
“A little 300-yard sprint is well worth four hours in bed,” Poulter said.
Indeed, Poulter’s push allowed him and playing partner Dustin Johnson to complete the third round and avoid resuming play at 7:45 a.m. Sunday, an early start that would have meant a 5:30 wake-up call.
“I think quite a few guys in that situation would have done exactly the same thing,” Poulter said.
Poulter bogeyed the final hole to shoot 2-over 74 in the third round and wound up even for the tournament. But his scramble over the final two holes was the talk of TPC Sawgrass.
Poulter and Johnson chatted about trying to finish the round on the 16th tee. With darkness setting in and the sound of the horn only minutes away, Poulter took it upon himself to make it happen. He knew that if someone in his group teed off before the horn, they would be allowed to finish the final hole. So he ran from tee to green, then green to tee, just to get it done.
Poulter and Johnson essentially ended up playing No. 18 with Mickelson and Laird.
“We knew when we teed off (Saturday afternoon following a rain delay) it was always going to be close,” Poulter said. “We figured we could get to 17, 18. We were talking about it the whole way around, ‘What is the time, what is the time, how much longer do we have?’ Yeah, it was close.”
RAIN DAMAGE: Although the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass drains exceptionally well, wind and heavy rain did a little damage to the par-5 16th during the third round Friday.
A tree toppled to the ground near the tee box, and the pin location had to be moved a couple of feet because of damage to the hole.
“That’s pretty unusual, but not unheard of,” said Mark Russell, vice president of rules and competition. “If the hole gets damaged, let’s say somebody hit a shot in there and took the side of the lip out and you couldn’t repair it, you’d have to move the hole. That’s happened before. I mean, we didn’t change where it was but like this (far), so the players are still playing the same thing.”
Russell didn’t tell players or caddies about the new hole location. He didn’t feel like he needed to because it was such a minor change. No players complained, either.
“We didn’t change the depth of it or the distance, just cut them a new hole,” Russell said. “I would think it would be more exciting playing a new hole than one that’s damaged.”
FINAL FORECAST: Sunday’s forecast calls for isolated thunderstorms in the morning, with a slight chance of rain the rest of the day. So PGA Tour officials expect to get the third and final rounds finished without any problems.
The third round will resume at 7:45 a.m., with officials expecting to need about three hours to complete play. Golfers will be back on the Stadium Course at 11:30 a.m., teeing off the final round in threesomes from the front and back nines. The leaders are expected to tee off around 1:42 p.m., with plenty of daylight remaining to play 18 holes.
“We’re going to have some beautiful weather tomorrow,” Russell said. “Low to mid 80s and less humidity, so it should be a great final day.”
OLDIES, BUT GOODIES: Kenny Perry, Mark O’Meara and Corey Pavin have represented the Champions Tour well against their younger counterparts at The Players Championship.
Perry, the youngest of the trio at 50, shot a 4-under 68 in the third round and moved to 5 under for the tournament. He struggled with his putter the first two days and was thrilled to make the cut. He switched to a belly putter and made five birdies.
“I played nicely,” he said. “Could have done something special with the putter. The putter’s kind of been holding me back a little bit. I didn’t miss any short ones today like I’ve been doing the first two rounds.”
O’Meara, playing The Players for the first time since 2003, made the cut for the first time since 2000. The 54-year-old O’Meara was 1 over Saturday through 13 holes and 3 under for the tournament when play was halted because of darkness.
Pavin was 2 over through 16 holes and 1 under for the tournament.
Perry said all three take a lot of pride in being able to compete with the youngsters.
“That’s what carries you this long in your career,” Perry said. “Realistically, do we think we can win like when we were kids? Probably not. We have a lot of fun.”