By Alex Miceli
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods isn’t the only 41-year-old trying to make a return to golf.
Englishman Ian Poulter, playing the Honda Classic this week, will be trying to work through a medical extension and keep a PGA Tour card that he has held since 2005.
Last May, Poulter received cortisone shots for an arthritic joint in his right foot. After consecutive missed cuts, he said that Dr. Ara Suppiah advised the European Ryder Cup star to take time off. The hiatus stretched to five months before Poulter returned to play the CIMB Classic in Malaysia in late October.
His return, a tie for 17th, marked the beginning of a 10-tournament stretch in which Poulter would need to earn 218 FedEx Cup points or $347,634 to retain exempt status on Tour. In his next six Tour events, Poulter needs to earn 154 FedEx Cup points or $247,301 to keep his card.
“It just takes a while to get back in,” Poulter said in his run-up to the Honda this week. “I didn't feel comfortable on the golf course the first couple of weeks back out, and there's still certain shots that I've been hitting, which have crept in just because I haven't played a lot of tournament golf. And that's difficult. We are trying to iron them out, but they take time. And trying to get a good stretch of events right now to shake all of those out, should be a good thing.”
Poulter, who has won 10 times on the European Tour and twice on the PGA Tour – but none since 2012 – has fallen to No. 206 in the Official World Golf Ranking, his worst ranking since 2003.
“I've stop looking, just because it's not a very nice number to look at,” Poulter said. “It was good when it was No. 5 (in 2010). It was great. I used to look at it all the time, but 200 doesn't sound very good, does it? So I stopped. You have to scroll down a bit. It's really annoying when you click on the page and it's like 1 to 50, 50 to 100, 100 to 150. I hate going four pages down. It's miserable.”
With his health again intact, Poulter thinks he can climb in the rankings and hopefully play on the European Ryder Cup team again.
But the immediate goal will be to keep his Tour card.
“When you look at other players that are in their 40s, still competing strong week in and week out, absolutely I can still be there,” Poulter said. “It's a question of confidence. It's a question of being clear in your mind, not having a lot of distractions. And if you can have all of those aligned, then I'm capable of winning this week and I'm capable of winning any tournament.”
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @AlexMiceli