PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Ian Poulter returns to The Players this week remembering how his crazy finish a year ago pulled him out of a swoon and back into thinking about making the European Ryder Cup team.
Poulter tied for second on the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course.
“Hopefully, we can go one better than last year,” Poulter said Wednesday.
Poulter shanked his approach to the 18th hole off a hospitality structure in the final round last year, then watched his ball ricochet backward, into the trees. His great escape from there might have been the spark that led to his resurgence over the last year. He saved bogey after nearly holing out from 116 yards.
“I was looking for one massive week, a stepping stone,” Poulter said. “It was a turnaround of one shot, really, to open up the rest of the calendar season, to get my head in the right position. It's as simple as that shot on the last hole I hit last year.”
After a nearly losing his tour card in his comeback on a medical extention from a foot injury, Poulter barely found his way into The Players last year; he retained his status after a quirk was corrected in the way the Tour was doling out points.
His status secure for the remainder of the season, Poulter took advantage, as his second-place finish helped push him into the postseason and back on the Tour this season.
With confidence rebuilt, Poulter, 42, has been on the rise. He won the Houston Open last month.
Now, Poulter is aiming to make the European Ryder Cup team for the sixth time.
“It’s a massive goal,” Poulter said.
Two years ago, Poulter failed to make the team, a disappointment for European fans who love his fiery nature. He’s 12-4-2 overall in the Ryder Cup, 4-0-1 in singles. He went to Hazeltine as a vice captain, instead. He enters this week one spot outside what would make the European team on the world points list, with the teams to be finalized after the Made in Denmark event at the start of September.
“I know what I need to do to make the team, and that is play consistent golf throughout the summer,” Poulter said. “I need some big finishes, and I know I'm one week away from obviously securing that spot.”
Once as high as No. 5 in the world rankings, Poulter tumbled to No. 207 early last year, but he’s back up to No. 26.
Making the Ryder Cup team continues to motivate his rise.
“I'm focused and determined to do it,” he said.