Poulter's determined approach proves a qualified success
Ian Poulter has good memories of Royal Birkdale from the time he finished runner-up to Padraig Harrington in The Open of 2008.
Little wonder, then, that he took those vibes on to the same course with him today and promptly set one of the best scores of the day, a three-under-par 67.
Out in 32, home in 35, the 41-year-old Englishman had four birdies and a solitary bogey in a first round which spoke volumes for his determination to get off to a good start. For a while he held the clubhouse lead, but was later passed by Jordan Spieth, who came in with a superb 65.
Poulter missed last year’s Open because of injury and this year, having fallen outside the world’s top 50, he had to go through qualifying to get into the field. If he had a stroke of luck it was that the qualifying event he entered was played on his home course at Woburn. Now he is focused on making up for lost time.
In tricky, blustery conditions, Poulter plotted his way around the course like the seasoned veteran he is. Those who have seen him play over the years – especially at the Ryder Cup – recognised the ‘game face’ he had on and a silky smooth putting stroke that was once his trademark.
“It was a great day,” he said. “I always knew it was going to be pretty strong winds today. And as I sat down to review the weather last night with the yardage book in hand, I planned and plotted my way around this course to try to keep out of the fairway bunkers. I almost played a round of golf in my head and I had a lower score than I did today, but don't we all?”
Poulter also found the galleries to his liking and was able to draw on the energy being generated around him. “To be clapped on to every single green means a lot,” he said. “Players love playing here. They love playing in The Open and spectators respect that as well. They definitely gave me a little bit of a buzz ... and a bit of energy on the greens as well.”
Just three rounds to go and he is already daring to dream. “If you're in a position to try and qualify for the best event in the world, then you should make the effort to go and do it,” he said. “There is a great opportunity to get in this championship and obviously go on and hopefully win it.”