Poulter has his eye on the cup – Ryder, not FedEx
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Ian Poulter has his eye on a cup in September, and it’s the one that doesn’t pay a dime.
Poulter certainly cares about the FedEx Cup, which starts with getting to the Tour Championship for a shot at the $10 million bonus. But he’ll be spending most of his summer at home in England playing on the European Tour, which will cost him in the FedEx Cup.
What matters is playing in the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2014. The Ryder Cup is the last week of September in France.
”There’s an event late September which means a lot to me, and obviously I’m going to want to put myself in that position,” Poulter said. ”I’m going to base myself in Europe for the summer. I’ll come back and play U.S. Open, and I want to stay in that top 30, and I want to move up. But I’m not looking at it that I have to do it. I’ve put too much emphasis on that in the past trying to make push-and-runs to get in.”
It’s easy for Poulter to say it’s not important to make the Tour Championship because he’s never made it there. He was never closer than in 2009, when he hit into the water on the 18th hole at Cog Hill and wound up finishing 31st in the FedEx Cup by less than a half-point.
”I get enough abuse from the week in, week out that I’ve never made it there, so if I don’t make it, I don’t make it,” Poulter said. ”But I would like to play, obviously, in the Ryder Cup in September.”
The Players Championship last year started his revival.
Poulter thought he had lost his PGA Tour card when he failed to make enough money playing on a medical exemption from a foot injury. He got through on a clerical error, and then tied for second at the TPC Sawgrass, which was worth $924,000. He wound up 46th in the FedEx Cup.
Then, he won the Houston Open this spring for his first PGA Tour title in more than five years.
”I definitely think it was a huge part of 2017 for me,” he said. ”Just to be told I was exempt to play was a huge bonus, and obviously to then kick on from that and play well, finishing runner-up, enabled me to go back to Europe and play a bit more and really kind of work on a schedule.”
Paul Casey withdrew from The Players Championship on Wednesday with a back injury. That means the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont remains the last golf tournament to have all the top 50 players from the world ranking.
Casey was replaced by Keith Mitchell, the highest-ranked player in the FedEx Cup not already in the field. Mitchell, a PGA Tour rookie, was runner-up in the Dominican Republic and tied for sixth in the Houston Open.
”I was just eating breakfast, getting ready to go practice and play the back nine, just in case,” Mitchell said. ”And then when I did get the call, I was able to play the back nine with a little bit more adrenaline and excitement.”
BATTLE FOR NO. 1
Justin Thomas has his fourth crack at reaching No. 1 in the world, and by far the best. Because of the way points are gradually reduced over the two-year period, he already is projected to reach No. 1 heading into the week.
It can be complicated.
Dustin Johnson, No. 1 for the last 15 months, will stay there with a victory or runner-up finish (provided Thomas doesn’t win), and there are other scenarios. But if Johnson finishes worse than 11th, he’ll yield the top spot.
Jon Rahm (No. 3) can reach the top with a victory, provided Johnson and Thomas are outside the top three. He also has a slim chance to get there as runner-up. Jordan Spieth (No. 4) faces a similar scenario. If he were runner-up alone, Thomas would have to finish outside 60th and Johnson at 12th or worse.
The longest shot belongs to Justin Rose (No. 5). He would have to win and have Thomas finish outside the top 46, along with Johnson finishing about 10th or worse.
HISTORY OF THE STINGER
Tiger Woods has become famous for his ”stinger” shot, low and piercing, typically with a long iron.
He owes that to a 1-iron he borrowed from his father.
”He couldn’t hit it anyways,” Woods said. I said, `I’ll take it off your hands.’ So I used it for a number of years.”
Woods figured that the longer the ball stayed in the air when he was younger, the more time it had to get off line. So his idea was to get it on the ground quickly.
”I started chipping and hitting these low 1-irons, and it worked out,” he said. ”And then eventually it started to basically cross over into other parts of my game. I started learning how to hit the ball flat with all my clubs. … That 1-iron was probably the start of learning how to hit the ball down, and plus we had balata balls back then, so learning how to take spin off of it was a big thing.”