By Simon Evans
SOUTHPORT, England (Reuters) – A buzzing Ian Poulter said he was drawing on memories of his near-miss at Royal Birkdale in 2008 as he put himself in contention for a first ever major win with an impressive even-par second round of 70.
The 41-year-old, who had to qualify for this week’s event after being hampered by injury over the past year, did not let Friday’s strong winds throw him off course as he finished the second round tied for third, three shots off leader Jordan Spieth.
“On the scorecard it was a very boring round of golf, but it kind of wasn’t from the perspective of how I had to kind of piece my way around this golf course,” said Poulter, who is bidding to become the first Englishman to win the British Open was Nick Faldo in 1992.
“It was tricky. 35-mile-an-hour wind at times and it was different wind than we had yesterday.
“So the golf course played completely different. Holes that were hybrid, sand wedge were kind of driver, 4-iron today. So it really was a complete 180,” he added.
Poulter’s best ever major result came at this course in 2008 when he finished second to Padraig Harrington after surging up the leaderboard with a final round 69.
“I’m pulling hard this week on memories of how I remember 2008. I think the only memories I really have of 2008 was Sunday’s round of golf, because I wasn’t quite in position,” he said.
“I mean, people were falling away, and I found myself moving up through the board. So every moment I’m on the golf course right now I’m thinking a lot about Sunday’s round of golf in 2008.”
Poulter could be forgiven, as he sat out the past five majors, for wondering if he might get back to the kind of form that saw him finish tied for third in the 2013 British Open — the last time he made the weekend’s action.
And he is clearly relishing being in the mix at the top of the leaderboard again.
“It feels absolutely marvelous, it really does. Walking up 18, just walking from greens to tees was really pretty special today. Huge galleries and they were really pulling for me,” he said.
“So it was really nice to be in position, keep churning out decent scores and keeping myself on the board. It was great.
“I’m in a good frame of mind. I feel confident. The large confidence tank that was empty a few months ago is starting to fill up. And I like it when it gets full up. I play some of my best golf when I’m pretty confident. And I’m excited for this weekend; I can’t wait.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar)