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
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Sport
footballLive blog: Follow the action from the Capital One Cup semi-final
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy