Ian Poulter: Road Warrior

Ian Poulter stopped by the media center at the European Tour’s DP World Tour Championship to talk about his chances to catch Henrik Stenson to win the tournament and snatch the Race to Dubai trophy away from him too. As he revealed last week, he’s literally got a bet on it…with Stenson…at 10 to 1 odds…plus Stenson has to serve him drinks all night long.

Along the way he talked about the last stretch of tournaments he played and the five weeks he took off in between that stretch and The Finals, this four-tournament stint. He provides quite interesting insight into how a Tour vagabond cobbles things together and how he prepares to survive it.

My first Monday qualifying trip on the Champions Tour was a five-city affair beginning in Atlanta and ending in Pittsburgh. This was an exciting time in my quest because all of the dreaming was finally being realized. But I have to tell you, by the time I arrived in Pittsburgh with the full week ahead of me until Monday, I was spent. And by the time I got to the weekend, far from being energized by it, I could not wait to get on that plane on Tuesday morning to go see my wife for the first time in a month. I never had a chance.

Poulter, on the other hand, was just cruising:

It’s been a nice run so far.  Obviously the last three weeks I made plenty of birdies; first week, plenty of bogeys to go with the birdies, and I’ve eliminated most of those mistakes over the last couple of weeks.

Just a bit disappointed last week not to convert any of the chances that I had on the back nine, 20 putts on the back nine holes doesn’t normally get it done in any tournament.

So I’m pretty confident for this week.  I love the golf course [the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai].  I’ve played it really well in the past, apart from a Tiddlywink [errant shot] into the first playoff hole.  So if I can do something similar like what I played a couple years ago, then I’m going to be in contention.

Poulter has a reputation for strong finishes in the Fall and he’s looking forward to not only that, but fun with his “mates:”

I fancy my chances, yeah.  There’s a lot riding on it this week.  Yeah, I’m looking forward to the challenges and having a bit of fun with Stenson and G‑Mac and Rosey over the next four days.

But beneath all of the good-time, prank-like behavior beats the heart of a fiery competitor who really wants to win the championship and The Race, like, no kidding:

Well, it would mean a lot.  I think the year, as some people have said, it’s been a disappointing year.  But I guess I’m slowly turning that around, the back end of the year, which I have done a couple of times before.

I think if I could win this week and win obviously The Race to Dubai, I think that would be a huge achievement for myself, as a personal goal.  That’s something that every player wants to do; you want to win the Order of Merit.  And yeah, it would be another box ticked for 2014, 2013, wherever we are.

Just how much energy did he churn through in the first three weeks around the world to get to this tournament? Turns out he wasn’t just laying around during his five-week hiatus, he was working out:

When you’re half-man, half‑mattress, it’s absolutely fine.  It’s no problem.  I sleep plenty.  (Laughter).

Yeah, there’s a reason why I took five weeks off before this back end of the year spell, so I could come out fully charged and ready to go, and I am.  I’ve still got plenty in the tank.  I feel that even though I’ve been in contention in the last group a couple of times, it has not — I don’t feel tired at the minute, which is good.

So it means the fitness work that I did in that off‑period is working; the hard work is paying off.  So I would expect myself to be there right to the end on Sunday.

And it turns out that this last-minute rush is not new; he’s always been a bit of a procrastinator:

I’ve always done well under pressure really, like my school report and school work.  I never handed it in until the last minute.  I always produced my best at the last minute.  Not the first time I’ve done it.

It’s too easy early in the season, isn’t it (smiling).

But as he lays out here, just because he’s a procrastinator doesn’t mean that he’s a goof-off. He has been charging full bore at being ready for this last four-city trip:

Yeah, there’s plenty you can do about it, yeah, which I am doing.  I’m working harder and harder.

You known, it’s not an intentional thing that the year has been okay and then I’ve had to work really hard.  I’ve still worked very, very hard.

It’s just I liked having five weeks off to be honest with you and doing a lot of really constructive work in that time period and coming out knowing that I’ve got a spell of tournaments that I can play; that I can’t get home on a Sunday night, and I know I’m away [and with a bunker mentality].

So I can’t — my mind‑set is completely different.  That’s why I’ve played generally pretty good in these closing weeks.

And finally, an issue not so much about golf mastery, but a peek behind the curtain at the difficulties rule-making bodies have to contend with when the great players are now very much international and playing on at least two tours.

To encourage commitment to The European Tour, they made a rule that the players had to play in at least two of the first three tournaments of the Final Series events. If they didn’t, they would be ineligible to play in the fourth, the Tour Championship. And without that, no Race to Dubai points, of course. But Poulter thinks this will be addressed quickly:

Obviously it’s been awkward for a few guys.  You know, scheduling is never easy.  You know, it’s difficult sometimes to be able to play enough events everywhere to keep everybody happy.

So you know, I — where do I stand on it?  The rule was put in place.  They may have got it slightly wrong.  I would think that will be addressed.

Obviously it would be nice to have Ernie [Els] in the field and Sergio [Garcia] and Charl [Schwartzel].  It would be a stronger field to have those guys playing, and they are not here.

You know, I’m sure that will be looked at and addressed. Everybody makes mistakes.  I think that’s just a mistake.  That won’t be made again.

Poulter will be playing in the next to last group with Graeme McDowell. Right behind them in the last group are Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.

It all comes down to these four rounds, which, half a world away, are just getting underway as I write this.

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