ROCHESTER, New York (Reuters) - Ian Poulter is renowned for his superb putting but is banking on his accuracy off the tee to give him a fighting chance of clinching his first major title at this week’s PGA Championship.
The fairways on Oak Hill Country Club’s heavily tree-lined East Course are flanked by thick, graduated rough which needs to be avoided as much as possible for players to reach the generally small greens in regulation on the par-four holes.
“This week in particular, I really need to be on my ‘A’ game to make sure that I put it in position off the tee,” the Englishman said on Wednesday.
”There are a number of long par-fours around this golf course where, if you are coming out of the rough, then you’re going to have no chance at all.
“My driving stats are pretty good and I’d like to lean on that as hard as I can this week, get it in play and try and take my opportunities when I can.”
Poulter heads into the year’s final major in an upbeat mood, having finished third in last month’s British Open at Muirfield before tying for 19th in last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.
”The state of my game right now, I feel pretty good,“ said Poulter, a 12-times winner on the European Tour. ”I feel pretty confident.
“The (British) Open championship was a big week and obviously it was very nice to get the ball rolling on the right line on the green and I had a little chase there on Sunday.”
Poulter launched a spectacular last-day assault at the British Open with an eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie burst from the ninth on the way to a closing four-under-par 67.
“I thought I played really well last week,” the 37-year-old said of his form at Firestone. “I drove the ball well and that’s exactly what you’re going to need to do around this golf course.”
Poulter has posted seven top-10s at the majors, four of them in the past two years, and is known for his never-say-attitude and ability to flourish when the pressure is at its most intense, especially at the Ryder Cup.
Asked to pinpoint why he had so far been unable to claim a maiden victory in golf’s elite championships, he replied: ”I guess I just haven’t been close enough come Sunday morning.
”I’ve had three good runs at it now, and every time I’ve just been a couple of shots away. I have to look into the early part of each of those weeks and say, ‘I’ve made mistakes at the wrong time.’
”Certainly at the (British) Open, bogeying four of the last five (in round one) and two of the last three (in round three) in those first three days was very, very costly.
“So it’s about me staying focused for 18 holes and trying not to make those silly mistakes, trying to find myself in a better position come Sunday morning.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Julian Linden