ST. LOUIS – Professional golf sounds like a glamorous lifestyle, but then you get down to the nitty gritty: time away from home and the odd mistake that can disrupt an otherwise good tournament.
For Ian Poulter, this week differed from most major-championship weeks. He arrived here for the PGA Championship at midday on Wednesday to learn a Bellerive Country Club course that he had never seen.
His sanity was more important than course knowledge.
Yet, oddly any lack of course knowledge was no apparent issue for Poulter, who recorded a 3-under 67 and again finds himself on a leaderboard after the first round for the second consecutive week (scores).
“I saw the storm possibilities on Tuesday, and [wife] Katie and the kids were arriving home at 5 on Tuesday afternoon, so for me it made sense to go home,” Poulter said of his motivation to return to Orlando, Fla., after Sunday’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio. “I hadn't been home since the 20th of May. So, it was good to get back, have a rest, unpack, fill the fridge full of food, and a couple of nights’ sleep in my own bed and come up early Wednesday morning.”
Oddly enough, when Poulter did return to an empty house, he struggled to sleep in his own bed the first night because it was so quiet.
After an opening-round 62 at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Poulter went in the other direction, shooting 67-70-74 to tie for 10th. It could have been so much better, and Poulter knows that he squandered a big opportunity.
Poulter, 42, of England, also recognizes that this week’s PGA is one of his best opportunities to showcase his talents for Thomas Bjorn, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain.
Poulter sits on the bubble in the European Ryder Cup rankings, at No. 12. Eight players will be determined by points on Sept. 3, after the PGA Tour’s Dell Technologies Championship and the European Tour’s Made in Denmark event. Poulter knows the importance of every shot toward earning his sixth Ryder Cup berth.
“I definitely left some on the table last week,” Poulter said. “Definitely left a little bit in Canada. Big disappointment at the Open. So, it's been good. It's been a continuation of decent form. But I haven't quite finished off the way I would have liked to have finished off a few of those events.”
With only 18 holes in the books here, Poulter needs to keep moving forward, instead of the fits-and-starts approach he has seen.
Since a T-25 finish at the U.S. Open, Poulter has made the cut in four events – two in Europe (T-21 at HNA French Open and T-30 at Aberdeen Standard Investment Scottish Open) and two on the PGA Tour (T-12 at RBC Canadian Open and the T-10 at WGC Bridgestone).
With the exception of the French Open, his final-round scores were worse than his first-round scores.
The reasons are numerous, but he will need to break that pattern this week to have a chance to win his first major championship and secure a Ryder Cup berth for the Sept. 28-30 matches at Le Golf National in France.
“I'm trying not to think it, but I know it's there,” Poulter said of the Ryder Cup. “I'm close enough now where one good week in the next two weeks can push me in. So, I'm close. It's on my mind. I want to be there in Paris.”
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @AlexMiceli