it takes a particular kind of player to birdie the first five holes in the final round of a major championship and to do so at a venue where double bogey wasn’t just possible on every hole but it was seemingly baked into the pie. Not necessarily a great player or even an accomplished one, but it takes some- one with a combination of ego and élan,
someone like Ian James Poulter.
“He’s a confident player,” Justin Rose says.
“He’s always had a lot of confidence,” Ben Curtis agrees.
Yes, that sounds about right, though not necessarily
“He’s ballsy,” Graeme McDowell says.
Ah, now we’re onto something.
Few players have ever spoken more highly of Poulter
than Poulter, but it’s difficult taking the loquacious
Englishman to task for his bravado (we won’t revisit
the self-comparisons to Tiger Woods from what seems
like eons ago) when he emits such a good-natured vibe
from the top of his frosted hair to the bottom of his often
wildly colorful shoes.
A fashion plate of the first order with his own line of
clothing, Poulter looks most stylish when he unleashes his
competitiveness, and he certainly cut a dashing figure at
the windswept Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. He was
dashing headlong toward leader Rory McIlroy, that is, offering up the most serious challenge to the young Ulsterman during the final round of the PGA Championship
with a barrage of birdies.
Someone had to add sizzle to a steamy and mostly
somnambulant Sunday, and Poulter has never been shy
in the spotlight, which he has earned of late. Though he
slid back to T- 3 after pulling as close as one stroke behind
McIlroy early in the round, Poulter notched his third
top- 10 in a major championship this year. No one else had
as many. His only miss was a T- 41 at the U.S. Open.
“It’s some of the cleanest golf I’ve ever played,” said
Poulter, 36, who hasn’t missed a cut this year but has been
unable to add to his 13 career victories. One consolation
prize: His career-best PGA finish moved him past Sergio
Garcia on the World Points List and into 10th among
automatic qualifiers for the European Ryder Cup team in
his last start before the team is determined Aug. 26 at the
Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.
“It was in my hands this week. I was just outside the
points. [Now] I’m now inside the points,” said Poulter,
vying to make his fourth Ryder Cup. “I don’t know
how that’s going to play out obviously with Gleneagles,
but I’m in the points, and hopefully that’s good enough
to get me an automatic spot. That’s what I was after
He almost got more. After birdieing the first five holes,
Poulter was briefly just one behind McIlroy. He birdied the
seventh and bogeyed the eighth but added birdies at 11 and
12—giving him eight for the day, as many as he converted
in the first three rounds combined. At this point he was two
behind, and he was aware of what still had to be done.
“When I got within two again, that’s when I knew I had to
hang on at 13-14 and get through unscathed,” Poulter said.
“That’s when I thought I might have a chance because
that’s the toughest part of the golf course, and Rory still
had to play them. But I didn’t do it. And [after] making
three bogeys in a row, I was all done.”
Poulter bogeyed 13, 14, 15 and 18 to wipe out much of his
hard work. His closing 69 left him at four-under 284.
At least he put McIlroy on notice.