ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Ian Poulter endured some heckling at the U.S. Open in June, but had a more pleasant experience in the first round at the PGA Championship on Thursday morning.
Poulter, battling to make the European Ryder Cup team, took a small step in the right direction with a three-under-par 67 to trail leader Rickie Fowler by two strokes.
Poulter did not even have a full practice round at Bellerive after arriving in town on Wednesday, but it apparently mattered little.
After playing four weeks in a row — two on each side of the Atlantic — the Englishman decided to spend a couple of days at his Florida home.
“Hadn’t been home since the 20th of May,” said Poulter, two strokes behind leader Rickie Fowler.
“So it was good to get back, have a rest, unpack, fill the fridge full of food, and a couple of nights sleep in my own bed and come up early Wednesday morning.
“I got out on the course. I played the back nine, and then I walked around the front nine and then hit some chips and putts around that front side.”
A disappointing final round at the World Golf Championships event on Sunday, where he finished equal 10th after starting the day in second, cost Poulter a chance to improve his European Ryder Cup ranking.
The eight top-ranked players on Sept. 2 will make the team automatically, while captain Thomas Bjorn will pick four others to complete his line-up.
The fiery Poulter has been the spiritual leader of the European team in his five Ryder Cup appearances, four times being on the winning side.
It is difficult to envisage Bjorn leaving Poulter out if he is playing half decently, but the player would rather not take any chances.
“I definitely left some (points) on the table last week,” he said.
“I could have got it done last weekend. That’s why I’m a little frustrated that I didn’t get it done, but I think I can squeeze in if I play well.
“I’m close enough now where one good week in the next two weeks can push me in. I want to be in Paris.”
His comments brought to mind an incident during the final round at the U.S. Open.
As he left the first green with a bogey in the final round at Shinnecock, a member of the gallery yelled: “See you in Bethpage Ian,” referring to next year’s PGA Championship venue in New York.
“See you in Paris first,” Poulter muttered under his breath.
Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Ed Osmond