Southampton - Ian Poulter has never been a big fan of the US
Open, but somehow, despite dropping four shots in his last two holes at
Shinnecock Hills on Friday, he's loving it.
The 42-year-old from England was closing in on leader Dustin
Johnson, trimming the world number one's second-round lead to one stroke with
three birdies in four holes on his inward run - keeping the momentum going with
a par from a tough bunker lie below his feet along the way.
But disaster struck at the par-four eighth, his penultimate
In the fairway off the tee, he found a greenside bunker and
his third shot out flew the green.
A poor fourth shot ended up in tall rough, and Poulter ended
up with a triple-bogey seven.
Poulter followed that with a bogey at the ninth, tumbling
from solo second place into a tie for fourth, five shots off the pace.
"It's easy to talk about it and dwell on it and kind of
chew it over," said Poulter, whose best finish in 12 prior appearances was
a tie for 12th in 2006.
"When you're out of position on this golf course and
you're trying not to make another mistake and another mistake and you kind of
are it just looks really stupid.
"So, yes, I felt stupid knifing the first one. I felt
even more stupid semi-chunking the next one, and I didn't do much better on the
next one either ... We're human, right?
"I think the best outcome for me is to put it out of my
mind, to look upon the position I'm in for this weekend. I'm T-4. I feel pretty
confident about my game, where my game is."
Poulter first played the US Open in 2004 - when it was held
at Shinnecock Hills.
He missed the cut, so he didn't experience the brutal
weekend conditions, with searing winds rendering some greens virtually
unplayable on Sunday.
In all of his starts since, he's never really embraced the
grinding nature of a championship which the US Golf Association likes to call
the "ultimate test".
"I've hated it for 14 years, I'm going to be
honest," Poulter said. "I came in my first US Open, and I wanted to
enjoy it, and I hated it. I hated a lot of US Opens through the years because
I've gone home early and I haven't had the finish that I would have liked.
"So coming in this week, feeling good about my game,
feeling good about the course, I kind of love it.
"Even though I finished triple bogey, bogey, I love the
challenge. I hated it - and I love it."
It could be a case of absence making the heart grow fonder,
since Poulter last competed in the championship in 2015.
He took a 20-week break in 2016 resting an arthritic foot
that had troubled him for two years, and his victory in the US PGA Tour's
Houston Open in April was his first anywhere in the world since he captured his
2012 WGC-HSBC Champions title in Shanghai.
"Being at home sitting on the sofa watching the US Open
the last couple years has been kind of frustrating," he said. "So
that's why I've got the attitude this week of a little bit carefree, go out,
play golf, try and enjoy it.
"It's a great golf course. It punishes poor shots -
like I proved - and good shots get rewarded."