SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Ian Poulter has had an unrequited relationship with the U.S. Open.
In a dozen starts, the Englishman has never finished inside the top 10 and this week’s championship at Shinnecock Hills is his first start at the U.S. Open in three years. He admits to feeling “angry” and “frustrated” in previous championships and he’s struggled to come to terms with the stress the event can create.
On Thursday, however, he felt different. Shinnecock Hills proved a worthy opponent, sending many of the game’s best players away bewildered and battered, but Poulter never succumbed to the pressure, never allowed himself to be overcome by the moment or the conditions, which were made maddening by winds that gusted to 25 mph.
“I look back to 2004 [at Shinnecock Hills], my first U.S. Open, that wasn't a very enjoyable experience. Today was the exact opposite,” said Poulter, who opened with a 1-under 69 for a share of the early lead alongside Scott Piercy.
Unlike many of his fellow professionals, Poulter took a less-is-more approach to this year’s championship. He didn’t arrive on Long Island until late Monday night and limited his preparation to just two nine-hole practice rounds. The subdued approach worked well on Day 1.
Poulter began his day quickly with a lengthy birdie putt at the third hole and added an unlikely birdie at the demanding par-3 seventh. He rebounded from his first bogey of the day at No. 10 by nearly holing his tee shot on the par-3 11th hole and made a tap-in birdie.
His round, just his fifth under-par card in his U.S. Open career, was even more impressive considering the day’s conditions.
“I've played enough golf through the years now to know my game suits kind of windy, tough conditions,” he said. “Looking at the forecast last night, we knew it was going to be a stiff wind. I didn't quite think it was going to be up to kind of 25 mile-an-hour wind.”