BELEK, Turkey – If Ian Poulter had one of those DNA tests that are popular these days, he might find that he has a little Turkish blood in him.
Since 2013, when Poulter tied for fifth here in the inaugural Turkish Airlines Open, the Englishman has felt right at home in the former Ottoman Empire. He finished second in 2014 and tied for 16th in 2015 (he didn’t play here last year). All told, Poulter has posted 13 scores in Turkey, with nine of them in the 60s, including a bogey-free 66 on Thursday at Regnum Carya Golf and Spa Resort here on the Mediterranean coast.
“I guess the stars align this time of year,” said Poulter, who trails leaders Haydn Porteous, Nicolas Colsaerts and Joost Luiten, who were tied at 64 (scores: http://bit.ly/2zf8b4I). “I don't know what it is, whether it's just a stretch at the end of the year and there's more focus on trying to improve world-ranking position or what. But I feel on this golf course, I've obviously played it pretty well today. If that continues, I'd like to think that if I can take the form from today and improve that over the three days, then we could be in there with a chance.”
Poulter logged an inconsistent range session Tuesday, and a 66 did not seem to be in the cards. He struggled with a fade.
After reviewing his swing notes, Poulter found a fix and now is looking for a victory that would elevate him back into the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking, with better control of his schedule and destiny in the game.
“I've done a pretty good job,” said Poulter, who has surged from 207th in the world in February to No. 54 today, after top 10s at the Players Championship (T-2), Scottish Open (T-9) and Canadian Open (third). “I think I've left a number of opportunities out there over the stretch that I've played. Certainly, the Scottish was a poor weekend after being in position. So, I've had a few opportunities of being in the mix to close out, and I haven't done that. I guess I just need to learn how to win again, and as soon as I do, then we can move up properly.”
The winner’s circle has been elusive for Poulter, 41, a 14-time winner worldwide who hasn’t claimed a tour title since the 2012 WGC HSBC Champions.
After recovering from various injuries and swing difficulties in recent years, Poulter hopes to reset his career path this week.
“I haven't hit the shots down the stretch that I've needed to hit at the right time,” Poulter said. “You can't say you don't think about it when you've got nine holes to play and you're in contention. Because when it's been a while, you do want to get over the line.
“I'm sure Justin Thomas [who won five times in the recent PGA Tour season] is feeling that the game is quite easy right now. He's getting over the line often. He obviously feels extremely comfortable. Not to say I haven't felt comfortable. I just haven't hit the right shots.
“So, there's obviously a hump to get over at the minute to be able to get over the line. It's about refreshing your memory and the 14, 15 wins that you've had to kind of get that feeling back and understand what it is to continue that form and get over the line. Once I think I do that again, then I think it will become a bit easier.”
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @AlexMiceli