Ian Poulter won’t fail here for lack of sleep. “Half man, half mattress” is how he described himself after sleeping 12 hours straight on the four-poster on Sunday night. Intensity, according to Poulter, is the big issue holding him back at the majors. After finishing third at The Open following a slow start Poulter is seeking in the early rounds at Oak Hill the kind of fireball triggered on the first tee at the Ryder Cup, the ultimate crucible for him.
“I am pretty good under pressure and I might not be under enough pressure on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. That is one of the issues and it has potentially always has been from day one,” Poulter said. “The pressure is there from the first tee shot at the Ryder Cup. There you go. It is no secret is it? But I can't take an injection before I tee off on a Thursday morning.”
The pre-match Poulter interview is often golfing stand-up. The plethora of anecdotal eccentricity does him a disservice since it militates against serious consideration of a high class golfer. The sleep bulletin was a case in point. “I was pretty tired after last week and needed the full recharge. If I want a really good night's sleep, I Cellotape the curtains to the walls and tape out the little LEDs on the TV so there is no form of light in the room at all.
“I hate any form of light in that room. Generally I wake up and feel brilliant and I feel great this week. Some of us need sleep, some of us don't. My whole family needs sleep. My wife needs lots of sleep, my kids need lots of sleep. One massive recharge of the batteries on Sunday night and I had a nice relaxed day on Monday, had my hair cut and all that crap.”
Were it required Poulter’s late tee time today would have provided for another monster chunk of shuteye last night. His PGA Championship challenge begins today at 1.55pm (6.55pm BST) alongside Zach Johnson and Lucas Glover. At Muirfield Poulter unleashed a five-birdie salvo to climb the leaderboard on the last day. At this championship a year ago he began the last round with another five-birdie charge to post another third place finish behind Rory McIlroy.
The last 20 majors have been won by 18 different players, 14 of those first time winners. Given his world ranking of 17 and recent near misses Poulter would appear suitably placed to authenticate a reputation built around the Ryder Cup with a major victory. Interestingly this is a former Ryder Cup venue, in 1995 when Poulter was a 19-year-old assistant pro at Chesfield Downs Golf Club playing off a handicap of 4. His rise is among the most remarkable in golf, yet the lowly starting point seems to carry a negative tariff when weighing his golfing talents. Maybe this is the week it all comes together for him.
“I expect to be able to put myself in positions to have a chance to win these big tournaments, and that comes from within. The pressure is there, it makes me work harder to try to get my name on one of these big trophies. 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. And chasing on major golf courses is not easy. I’d like to be ten clear on Sunday. It would make the job a lot easier.”