Poul­ter rev­els in the lime­light but stum­bles on cen­tre stage

Ry­der Cup hero fails to shed the bag­gage of never win­ning a ma­jor

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Sport - PAUL HAY­WARD SPORTS WRITER OF THE YEAR

if this were his pre­cise in­ten­tion. In 2008 here, he fin­ished sec­ond to Padraig Har­ring­ton. A week later his wife Katie told him she was preg­nant.

“Happy days” is how he re­mem­bers them now. But by the time of his first tee-shot, the bar had been set too high. South Africa’s Bran­den Grace had just set a new record of 62 for a sin­gle round in men’s ma­jors.

The crowd were fizzing. They were ex­pect­ing a day of spec­tac­u­lar, score­board-shred­ding golf. Poul­ter seemed ready to join in.

But a three-putt on the first green took a bite out of his overnight score of three un­der par. More pres­sure was ap­plied by his play­ing part­ner, Brooks Koepka, the US Open cham­pion, who struck three birdies on the spin and fin­ished with a 68. Younger, tightly fo­cused and sharper with the put­ter, Koepka was show­ing Poul­ter the strength of the op­po­si­tion as he clung to his dream.

There is no bag­gage quite like the best-player-never-to-have-won-ama­jor tag. There are oth­ers in that pe­nal colony – but one fewer af­ter Ser­gio Gar­cia’s Masters win in April. Poul­ter qual­i­fied for this 146th Open through the 36-hole fi­nal qual­i­fy­ing com­pe­ti­tion. When arthri­tis in his feet re­quired laser surgery, he dropped to 210 in the world rank­ings. Last year he missed the Open and Ry­der Cup with in­jury. “I was low, I was down, and I wasn’t happy play­ing golf for a long time,” he says.

Poul­ter promised him­self he would use the crowd’s sup­port to lift him to the top. He spoke of “huge gal­leries, re­ally pulling for me,” and said: “The large con­fi­dence tank that was empty a few months ago is start­ing to fill up. And I like it when it gets full up.”

The pub­lic love this kind of lan­guage. And we in the me­dia love it even more. The urge to play it down (“it’s go­ing to be dif­fi­cult for me to talk about that right now”) is never stronger than his wish to take up a chal­lenge, or cast him­self as a golfer for whom any­thing is pos­si­ble. At the Ry­der Cup, it cer­tainly is. He has blessed that com­pe­ti­tion with his eye-pop­ping pas­sion.

Ma­jors, though, are an­other mat­ter, and with each wave of good new play­ers the quest be­comes harder. Ex­cite­ment was no help to him.

Ro­mance only threw prob­lems in his path.

The Claret Jug has moved out of reach again. This was not a day for cling­ing on. It called for dramatic head­way, which Rory McIl­roy also failed to make. Poul­ter ex­pressed a lot of anger in that 60-sec­ond in­qui­si­tion.

But he also showed how driven he is, how much it means to him.

Out of the run­ning: Ian Poul­ter will have to wait a lit­tle longer to break his ma­jor duck

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.