GULLANE, Scotland (Reuters) - Winning a major championship will not define Ian Poulter’s golf career, the world number 20 and Ryder Cup stalwart said on Thursday.
Poulter shot a one-over-par round of 72 to get his British Open campaign off to a steady start at sun-baked Muirfield, struggling to cope with what he described as some “ridiculous” pin positions.
But the 37-year-old, who has won 13 tour titles including two World Golf Championship events, is not obsessed by ending his major drought.
“I don’t need to win a major,” Poulter told Reuters in an interview. “If I stopped playing golf tomorrow I would’ve had a successful career.
“I am very confident I have the game to win majors and obviously I want to but it is not an obsession for me.”
Poulter was delighted to see his close friend and fellow Englishman Justin Rose win the U.S. Open last month.
“I felt proud for him,” Poulter said. “I played at Merion but when my chance of winning the tournament had gone I was very pleased to see Justin do it. I know how hard he has worked.”
Poulter, who was hosting a Q&A for golf fans at the MasterCard Club, said watching Rose had been inspirational.
“Seeing Justin do what he did was good, it made me want to get off my backside and get out there and do it myself,” he said.
Poulter spent eight years working in a golf club shop, earning 120 pounds ($180) a week, before becoming a professional player and he always believed in his ability.
“Anything is achievable with hard work and I knew I was prepared to do whatever it took to make it the top,” he said with a steely glint in his eye.
Poulter has saved his best golf for the Ryder Cup in recent years, inspiring Europe’s comeback win in Medinah last year with four points out of four.
But he does not expect to be able to play with so much passion every week.
“You cannot recreate that intensity in a strokeplay event,” he said. “You want to send the crowd into a frenzy at the Ryder Cup.
“I would be physically exhausted if I played like that every week. I was just shot to pieces emotionally after last year.”
Poulter would relish the chance to captain the Ryder Cup team.
“I would love to be Ryder Cup captain,” he said. “I play with passion. I would ask the guys to go out there and play with passion. The European players are a team, we stay together as a team and that’s why we’ve had success.”
Turning down the offer of a beer in preference for a bottle of water, Poulter expressed his frustration with his opening round at Muirfield.
He had moved to two-under-par at the turn, within sight of the leaders, but four bogeys on the last five holes dropped him back.
“It was disappointing,” he said. “I hit some great shots today and did not get my reward.”
Poulter said some of the pin positions were almost unplayable.
“They were very close to the mark,” he said. “The pins on the eighth and 18th holes are so tough. I think the organizers did it because they were afraid of someone tearing up the course in the conditions.”
($1 = 0.6579 British pounds)
Editing by Tony Jimenez