Poulter 'in groove' for tilt at US Open

Ian Poulter proudly moved into the world's top 20 yesterday and in typically confident fashion vowed that this would be the mere start of his rise into the game's elite. "Second in The Players means a lot of ranking points, exactly what I need to kick on for the rest of the year," said the Englishman.

At No 18, the 33-year-old has never been as highly rated. Neither has Poulter deposited such a large cheque. The £680,000 he earned courtesy of his four-stroke defeat at the brilliant hands of Henrik Stenson on Sunday dwarfed the £450,000 he trousered last year for finishing second at The Open. Such is the standing of the Sawgrass spectacular.

With two top-five finishes in two weeks, Poulter is counting down to next month's US Open at Bethpage. "The time cannot go quickly enough," he said. "It's fair to say I'm very, very excited about the upcoming majors."

As has become his way of late, Poulter will skip the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth next week and instead embark on a three-week stint on the PGA Tour, starting with the Byron Nelson Classic in Texas. "My short game has been, as my caddie said, ridiculously good over the last few weeks," said Poulter. "I need to stay in that groove."

His mood is in contrast to that of his best friend and Orlando neighbour, Justin Rose. The Englishman belied his usually calm temperament when breaking in half his putter at the end of The Players. His tie for 22nd meant that he has failed to finish better than 20th in the US this year. From sixth in the world just 16 months ago, Rose is now 36th.

Heading in the other direction is Stenson, up to No 5 after his bogey-less final round off 66. "Pretty incredible," said one Tiger Woods.

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