Poulter ready to become big player

Whatever else Ian Poulter goes on to conquer in his already overachieving career, he can always claim to have finally rid the United States of one of its daftest myths. Not every Englishman resembles a Hugh Grant character; in fact here is the very opposite. Welcome to "The Assuming Englishman" and the golfer who is in contention going into today's final round of the Players Championship, fully expecting to win.

Of course, it will always take more than grand intentions to land grand titles and below the majors they don't come any grander than the Sawgrass spectacular. Particularly when you have just shot a three-over 75 on the Saturday and a certain Tiger Woods is also alongside you in that logjam in second place. In all there are six – yes, six – on six under, five behind Alex Cejka. With the utmost respect to the runaway German leader, all of them will fancy their chances. Even Poulter's unheralded compatriot, Brian Davis, who is bubbling on five under.

But obviously, none will have simmered more than Woods, who will set out in his usual red on a Sunday disbelieving he is in the final grouping. Regardless of whatever disadvantages the halfway leaders were perceived to be operating under yesterday – crusting-up greens, the capricious Florida gusts that seem to get more malevolent by the hour – it was incredible how quickly Woods crept up that scoreboard, having started seven behind the lead and thereafter doing nothing that, in his lexicon anyway, would qualify as "special".

Indeed, when the world No 1 putted out for a 70, he would have imagined being within sniffing but not mauling distance. See, even Woods does not know everything about golf. Certainly, as a one-time champion of the Players (way back in 2001), he does not know everything about Sawgrass.

One thing Woods does know, however, is how to thrill the crowd, even when he is far from his best. Again, he reminded of Seve rather than Tiger. First, on the 11th, he played a near-perfect left-handed shot from the base of a pine tree with a flipped-over iron and then, after making birdie on the notorious island-greened 17th, he made an outrageous par on the 18th.

Woods pushed it into the trees and from there could not emulate his shot from the night before when he conjured a magical recovery to 12 feet. This time the rough was not so obliging and the seven-iron received something of a flyer. But just as it seemed odds-on to find the water behind the 18th green it came to an emergency stop – as if some celestial force had slammed its fist against the dashboard – a foot short in the Bermuda rough. From there he inevitably performed a magical up-and-down. Lady Luck and Woods have this deal...

But so, too, do Poulter and that frivolous dame. At least that is what he believes. He stepped out here yesterday with a discernible strut that soon turned into a limp as the infamous Ponte Vedra layout decided to bare its teeth. In the swirls he kept misjudging his irons and with Cejka looking so solid, his task is rather imposing.

In fairness to Poulter, there will be rather more than his own infamous ego spurring him on today to believe his time is nigh and that Britain will at last have a Players champion to put alongside Sandy Lyle in 1987. If his opening two rounds of 67 and 68 had contained enough pin-pointed irons and enough holed putts to make this golfing peacock's feathers fan out, then there was also the events of Kentucky last September to remind of the steel beneath the plumage.

"I don't think I will ever play under as much pressure as that again," said Poulter yesterday. "Everything from now on in, I can enjoy." Then, when asked what victory in "the fifth major" would mean, he replied: "It would be a step forward. It would mean everything. It would mean a couple of years of hard work. It would mean carrying it over from the Ryder Cup, from the way I played there, the way I played at the Open. It would mean stepping up another level." Here is that upper level. Is he capable of it?

Suggested Topics
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all