Poulter ready to answer his critics

By Associated PressSeptember 17, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupLOUISVILLE, Ky. ' Forget the outrageous wardrobe, the gelled-up hair, the hilarious impersonations. At this Ryder Cup, Ian Poulter will be judged solely on what he does with his clubs.
Hit a bunch of errant shots? That would surely give credence to those who already consider Poulter to be the Lehman Brothers of the European portfolio.
Sink a bunch of clutch putts? Poulter could giddily tell all his critics to go jump in one of those lakes at Valhalla Golf Club.
Certainly, no one is under more scrutiny in bluegrass country than the flamboyant Englishman.
Ian Poulter
Ian Poulter practices Wednesday at Valhalla. (Getty Images)
Ill bring flair, Ill bring excitement, and Ill bring passion, Poulter said Wednesday, hardly backing down from the challenge. Ill do my bit for the team this week. Im really looking forward to it.
Poulter is one of the most unlikely members of either team, chosen by European captain Nick Faldo with one of his two discretionary picks.
The media on the other side of the Atlantic tore into Faldo, claiming the captain passed over the most deserving Darren Clarke because of his friendship with Poulter. Even the American captain, Paul Azinger, was stunned that Clarke was left off the team.
The fact that Poulter skipped his final chance to qualify automatically, choosing to play in a big-money FedExCup tournament in Boston rather than a European Tour event in Scotland, only fueled speculation that Faldo had guaranteed his buddy a spot on the team no matter where he played.
Colin Montgomerie, a longtime stalwart of the European team who didnt get selected this year, either, sarcastically asked if Poulter had a hot line to the captain that no one else possessed. Poulter lashed back, swearing that he didnt know he was on the team until Faldo called him just before the official announcement.
I was gobsmacked, to be honest, Poulter said. That was a difficult week. I didnt know which way the phone call was going to go and I was waiting in anticipation all morning until I got it. Yeah, I was very, very, relieved.
Now that hes here, Poulter does seem more at ease, though he sure looked out of place wearing the earth-toned outfit the Europeans picked out for Wednesdays practice round.
As he walked away from the 12th tee, someone more accustomed to seeing Poulter wearing flashier colors yelled out, Hey, Ian, wish you were wearing pink today?
I am wearing pink, Poulter replied with the timing of a standup comedian. You just cant see it.
That brought out plenty of laughter from the gallery.
But Poulters record is a more serious matter.
Other than a runner-up finish in the British Open ' his best showing in a major ' this has been a largely forgettable year. Splitting time between the PGA and Europeans tours, he hasnt finished higher than ninth in any other event. He didnt even make the cut in his last two tournaments.
As for Ryder Cup experience, thats largely nil as well. Poulters only other appearance was at Oakland Hills in 2004, where he split his two matches and spent most of the time cheering on the Europeans to their most dominating win on American soil.
So whats he doing on the team this time around? Why not Clarke, who was on the last five Ryder Cup teams and had won twice in the past four months on the European Tour?
Faldo was clearly impressed by Poulters showing in the pressure cooker of Royal Birkdale, where he actually pulled into a tie for the final-round lead before Padraig Harrington pulled away with brilliant shots down the stretch.
How I played, certainly in the Open, was a big factor, Poulter said. To play like I did, as well as I did down the back nine, that must have been a factor in him making the decision.
Poulter also takes issue with those who question his overall record, saying hes actually had a very, very solid year.
Its kind of been one of those ones where I havent finished a lot off, he said. I kind of got into a nice mind-set in the Open. I was very, very focused, and I was able to ride that focus and keep it going for four rounds. Its something I havent done for all four rounds this year. It was nice to do it.
One of Poulters teammates, Justin Rose, believes Poulter will feed off the criticism.
Ians the kind of guy that can take care of himself, said Rose, who could find himself paired with his fellow Englishman when play starts on Friday. When hes got a point to prove, he normally goes out there and does it.
Poulter said hes had a chance to talk with Clarke and smooth over any hard feelings.
He was very supportive, Poulter said. Hes obviously very disappointed with not making the side. But Darren said, You know, Im very pleased that youve made the side and youre a very worthy player of making that side. Thats the type of guy Darren is. Hes obviously taken it personally. Hes very disappointed. But on the other hand, hes pleased for me.
Poulter said theres no lingering bitterness in the locker room, either.
Maybe hell even get a chance to break out his apparently dead-on impersonation of a character from the old British sitcom Only Fools and Horses, the one that prompted Faldo to quip in the call to let him know he was on the team, Raquel, go and put your overcoat on, its time to go to the Ryder Cup.
The guys have been great, Poulter said. Everybody on the team is united.
At the 11th hole Wednesday, he stood over a 20-foot putt just as Faldo pulled up in a cart to check out the group.
Poulter rolled it right in the center of the cup.
Now, hes just got to do it when it counts.
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    Schauffele just fine being the underdog

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

    Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

    Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

    Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

    “All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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    Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

    So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

    Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

    Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Jordan Spieth: 7/4

    Xander Schauffele: 5/1

    Kevin Kisner: 11/2

    Tiger Woods: 14/1

    Francesco Molinari: 14/1

    Rory McIlroy: 14/1

    Kevin Chappell: 20/1

    Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

    Alex Noren: 25/1

    Zach Johnson: 30/1

    Justin Rose: 30/1

    Matt Kuchar: 40/1

    Webb Simpson: 50/1

    Adam Scott: 80/1

    Tony Finau: 80/1

    Charley Hoffman: 100/1

    Austin Cook: 100/1

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    Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

    For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

    By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

    But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

    As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

    “This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

    Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

    As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

    After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

    “I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

    But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

    Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

    “I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

    There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

    Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

    And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

    As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

    “We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

    Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

    Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

    The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

    Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

    It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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    Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

    One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

    McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

    McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

    “I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”