2013 PGA Championship Interview Transcript: Ian Poulter
KELLY ELBIN: Coming off a tie for third place last month at The Open Championship at Muirfield, Ian Poulter joining us at the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club. This will be Ian's 12th PGA Championship appearance, his best coming last year in a tie for third last year at Kiawah Island.
Thanks for your time. Just some opening comments about the state of your game and how it may suit Oak Hill.
IAN POULTER: Yeah, the state of my game right now, I feel pretty good. I feel pretty confident.
Obviously The Open championship was a big week and obviously very nice to get the ball rolling on the right line on the green and had a little chase there on Sunday. I thought I played really well last week; so coming into this week, I drove the ball well and that's exactly what you're going to need to do around this golf course. It's all about putting it in play.
The greens are very small this week, and your distance control is absolutely key to making sure you're on the right spot of the greens, or even actually hitting some of these greens, to have any chance of making birdies. And it's going to be a good challenge this week. Not many guys have ever finished under par around this golf course, so you've got to play very smart golf this week.
KELLY ELBIN: Any particular holes stand out in your mind as ones that may be key down the stretch, particularly on the back nine?
IAN POULTER: I mean, 13, for instance, albeit 600 yard par 5, but I don't see anybody hitting driver off that tee. I would think a lot of guys would be hitting 3 iron off a par 5, 600 yards, is very unusual. I see it as 3 iron, 5 iron, 9 iron just to make sure you're in position. If you hit it in that rough off the tee, you're in trouble. If you hit it in rough off with your second shot, you're in trouble again.
So there's a couple of key holes there. You've obviously got a short par 4, 14, which depending on the pin location, guys are going to drive it up close to that green and hopefully have an easy chip.
And the last couple of holes, two difficult holes to finish.
Q. Do you feel the harder the course is, the better it suits your game?
IAN POULTER: At times I do. That's definitely been the case at a number of big tournaments when, you know, it's been difficult to score and make lots of birdies, I've been in position and churned out decent scores.
This week in particular, I really need to be on my A Game to make sure that I put it in position off the tee. There's a number of long par 4s around this golf course which if you are coming out of the rough then you're going to have no chance at all. So my driving stats are pretty good. I'd like to lean on that as hard as I can this week, get it in play, and try and take my opportunities when I can.
Q. It looks like the sort of course that should suit you, anyway, because of the accuracy and tricky greens. When you took a look at it, did you think, this is a good fit?
IAN POULTER: I looked at my scorecard from 11 years ago, and you wouldn't think so.
I like the setup. I like the fact that you don't have to hit driver off every single tee. It's a lot of positional play. The greens are very small. I think the rough around the greens, it might not favor the best chippers, because I think it's very thick. It's very lush. The ball doesn't get to the bottom of the grass, so the ball actually sits up slightly and it's very hard to predict exactly how it's going to come out.
I think it evens the field a little bit if guys are going to miss greens, but I do like the challenge. I do like the setup. I'm very much looking forward to trying to putt some red numbers on the board.
Q. Just to follow up, we almost expect you to play well on a Ryder Cup course; just wondering where you were in '95.
IAN POULTER: That was the first year I turned assistant pro, so I was 19 and I would have been working at a golf course called Chesfield Downs. I would have been watching it from the pro shop.
Q. Do you have any memories?
IAN POULTER: I can't remember much about it to be honest. I can't remember. Well, obviously I remember Faldo's up and down and I think Gilford went for a chip and run off the back green and Seve was having a heart failure, how can you hit a chip through with a 5 iron or whatever he was going to do, bungle it through that rough. That was about all I remember.
Q. The last 20 majors have been won by 18 different people, including 14 first timers. Can you just talk about how wide open the majors seem to be in golf?
IAN POULTER: I didn't realize that. I guess there's a lot of good players in the world. I don't know any other way of how to explain that. You know, I think when you look at the World Rankings and look at how many players have played well in the Majors and, as you said, how many new Major winners there have been, it just proves that golf is very, very strong right now, and there's lots of people that are going to put themselves in position again this week and have a chance of winning their first major.
Q. You've obviously had some good finishes in Majors, had a run at The Open and then the good finish here. What do you think has sort of held you back from winning a major championship? Is it one thing in particular?
IAN POULTER: I guess I just haven't been close enough come Sunday morning. I think I have had a couple of runs at it. I've had three good runs at it now, and every time I've just been a couple of shots away. So whether that's I have to look into the early part of each of those weeks and say, I've made mistakes at the wrong time. Certainly the Open, bogeying four of the last five, and bogeying two of the last three in those first three days was very, very costly.
So it's about me staying focused for 18 holes and trying not to make those silly mistakes and trying to find myself in a better position come Sunday morning. So when I have got those opportunities and chances, then I'm not four or five back and really hoping the guys up in front falter; it's about me getting myself in position come Sunday afternoon into the back nine and see if I can just press forward.
It's silly mistakes that have been very costly over the years.
Q. And secondly, you were on a putter search for awhile. Have you kind of settled on a putter?
IAN POULTER: Yeah, I've played two tournaments right now it's doing well. I'm a guy that doesn't change my putter very often. I think I've had two putters in four years. I've changed my putters at the right time, and the right time is when I have that feeling when something has gone cold, I changed and that doesn't happen very often that I've changed, and it seems to work and nearly worked really well. I'm going to keep this one out for a bit longer and see if it works.
Q. You talked about the number of players who can put themselves in position to get to become major champions. Does that encourage you or does that put more pressure on you?
IAN POULTER: One, I guess it's encouraging, but it doesn't bring any extra pressure. I put as much extra pressure on myself than any outside pressure.
You know, I expect myself to be able to put myself in position to have a chance to win these big tournaments, and that comes from within. The pressure is there. I'd like to put myself under that pressure and continue to do so, because it makes me work harder to be able to try and achieve getting my name on one of these big trophies. So there's no pressure like we put pressure on ourselves, and I think that stands for every player in the game of golf.
Q. I wanted to ask you about Rory McIlroy. When you see how much scrutiny he's under on a daily basis, what goes through your mind watching that?
IAN POULTER: Yeah, give him a break. I mean, I guess in the outside world, there's been obviously there's been a lot of talk obviously of Rory, world No. 1, two Majors at a very early age, everybody expects Rory to continue to win big tournaments, and he will.
Obviously the fact of signing a big endorsement deal and changing equipment manufacturers come under a lot of scrutiny, as well. So he's had a lot of extra added pressure to go out there and play golf.
You know, I think sometimes we forget how young he is and what he's been able to achieve at a very early age. So the second he feels comfortable again, whether that's with his swing or equipment or whatever it is, then, you know, Rory will be winning golf tournaments. You know, that natural swing of his doesn't just disappear overnight and I think he's had to cope with an awful lot of things and changes that he's had in the last ten months, and it's not just equipment and it's not just media. I think there's been a lot of off the golf course things that have happened, management, etc., etc., that have all been a factor in what's happened this year.
So the second all that clears itself up and we give him a break, then you'll see Rory playing some great golf.
Q. Have you spoken to him? Has he actually said to you, Poults, what do I do?
IAN POULTER: Well, I haven't won two Majors, so I should be asking him what do I do, to be honest with you.
Q. But you've run your affairs very well
IAN POULTER: Sure. He's got a good team of people around him. I don't feel I need to poke my nose into his business and if ever he wants to ask me anything, obviously I'm there to be that person if he wants to come and ask me some questions. So I don't feel it's my position to go up to him to give him any advice on those grounds. He's working through it, and I think hopefully he's through the back end of it and we can see a turn in his form very, very soon.
Q. If he did come to you, what would you say?
IAN POULTER: That would be between me and him.
Q. A few weeks ago in The Open, all the talk was about the conditions, especially the wind and the hardness of the course. This week, how do you what kind of a role do the conditions play, both the weather and the course?
IAN POULTER: Well, I think the weather forecast is pretty good for the week. Obviously the ball is not going to be running 120 yards on the fairway this week. So it's a very different test. The ball is not going to roll very far on these fairways unless you hit the downslopes. The ball is not going to move very far on the greens because the greens are relatively soft right now, and the rough is very, very thick. I mean, it's not a rough that you can I mean, there's three stages of rough out there on that golf course, and if you're in any of the, you know, second and third cut, you're going to have trouble getting it to the greens, unless it's a very short par 4 or unless you've got very, very lucky having a fantastic lie.
I think it's a fair golf course this week in respect that you have to play well, and the guys that are going to play well this week are the guys that are very good tee to green to give themselves a position, to put themselves in a position to be able to win.
I think the conditions that we have this week are very good, and it's a true test of golf from a very different way to obviously what the Open was. That was a test a true test of golf, as well, but completely other end of the spectrum.
Q. There were some questions last week about the conditions of the greens and that they were a little bit slow. How have you found them the last couple of days, and how do you think they are going to play coming into the weekend?
IAN POULTER: Well, I've only played nine holes so far. I played nine holes yesterday. I felt the greens were actually in pretty good shape. Obviously there was talk last week of the greens being exceptionally slow and the fear that they couldn't get them up to speed.
I thought the speed yesterday was pretty good. I think they were probably running, you know, nearly at 11. Some of the greens are very slopey, and I don't know if you could actually get them a lot quicker than that.
Now, I'm just about to go out there and play the front nine today, so I'll have another good look today. I would suspect that there's enough grass on them now, and I would think that the rollers and the machines that they have got, they can take a little bit more grass off them and roll them and get them somewhat a couple of feet quicker come Sunday.
Q. As you go from venue to venue, curious for the Rochester community, if you get any opportunity outside of golf to learn anything about the town for anything not related to the major?
IAN POULTER: Not really. I guess we have got time, a few guys have gone out to Niagara Falls. I think David Lynn filled his car with diesel instead of petrol, so he got stuck out there, which was great.
We have had opportunities to be able to do other things, but my focus, really, to be honest with you, is to win this golf tournament, and to fill up other time with lots of other things I don't feel is right for me. So for me, it's hotel, golf course, hotel, golf course, and find the best restaurants I possibly can in the evening. So it's very much a work week for me, and that's how I'm going to keep it.
Q. Slightly off topic, but you're pretty prolific on Twitter; how important is social media to you to interact with the fans?
IAN POULTER: I think it's very important for me. I give them an insight into what I do day to day. And I have outside interests, as well; obviously my clothing line, my business there, and I'm able to tell the guys out there when I've got special offers on or when there's new product or when I'm testing new product.
For me, I think it's something that I really enjoy doing, and I feel it's been very valuable to have that there. I've got a good fan base around the world, and obviously being a golfer that travels the world, I feel it's the best way to be able to get to them immediately and give them a real inside scoop as to what we do every minute of the day; albeit I can't Tweet every minute, but I do it as much as I possibly can.
Q. You had to adjust to the pin positions at Muirfield in the first round, does that mean you'll approve of the fans being able to choose the pin position in the final round?
IAN POULTER: I think what you have there is I think the US PGA would have already preselected a number of pins; and therefore, with that it's not like one of the fans is going to go out there and put it one inch from the edge of the water, is it?
There will be potentially maybe six options on that green, which are sensible pins and I guess it's a way to get some fan interaction as to where they would like the pin on that. Is it for one day or final day, okay.
There's a number of sensible options which the guys would have chosen, and then obviously it's a way to interact with fans for that decision.
Q. You spoke about having more consistent rounds coming into the weekend, but you seem to thrive and have this intensity when you have to come from behind. Do you like that position, or if you were leading coming into the final on Sunday, how comfortable are you in that position? What do you prefer?
IAN POULTER: I'd like to be ten clear to be honest with you. It would make the job a lot easier, I think.
You know, always being a few shots back is always a difficult position to be in. And chasing on major golf courses is not easy. They are very difficult. Pin locations are very easy. And when you're chasing a score or chasing guys in front, it's very easy to make a mistake, and it's not an enjoyable position to be in. Yes, it puts a little bit of extra pressure on you to be able to hit the shots at the right time. I feel I'm pretty good at that.
But I feel that I would have obviously a better chance if I play better on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday and I've got myself, you know, my nose in front. I think my stats have probably proven that; that when my nose is in front, I've played very well and often I've been able to finish the job off.
I'd like to find myself in that position a bit more often on a Saturday night, because it will stop these gray hairs coming through.
KELLY ELBIN: You have a very late tee time, 1:55 PM. In terms of preparing for the first round, that late in the day, does that cause any issues at all?
IAN POULTER: Set my alarm for ten o'clock and I'll have probably 12 hours kip. It's easy. For me, I love sleeping; I'm half man, half mattress. I don't want a late wake up call.
KELLY ELBIN: Ian Poulter, thank you very much.
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