Any sense that Ian Poulter was of a mind to take out his pipe and slippers after the second-place finish at the Players Championship would clearly have been a mistake. Poulter would have been entitled to reflect on a job well done after his performance at Sawgrass in May secured the Englishman’s PGA Tour status for next season.
Events since the Players rather endorse the attitude that continues to serve Poulter so well. He earned an Open Championship place via final qualifyingand the 41-year-old is now tied for the lead at the Scottish Open with just 18 holes to play. Poulter may yet head for Birkdale and the third major of 2017 with what would be a first European Tour win in almost five years under his belt.
“I’m a leaderboard watcher,” Poulter said. “I will obviously go out there and do the best I can. I’ll be aggressive to the pin locations that I feel are accessible and just go and have some fun.
“I’m in a good mental state. Obviously a few months back, things were pretty difficult but obviously life’s a little bit easier right now and I’m enjoying my golf.”
Poulter’s 71, for the nine under total he shares with Andrew Dodt and Callum Shinkwin, was impressive by virtue of the weather conditions. A horrible, squally Ayrshire afternoon rendered Dundonald Links a brutal test in places.
“I’d have signed for that score if you’d offered me it before I went out,” said Poulter. “We knew it was going to be really tough today but I didn’t think they would be quite as bad as they were.
“I think 12 was about as tough as I’ve ever seen in terms of wind and rain. It was a job to hold the umbrella, let alone try to hit a six-iron from 125 yards and even that didn’t get near the pin. I hung in there pretty strong. So all in all, it was a good day.”
Dodt and Shinkwin have dual aspirations for Sunday as they seek to secure an Open berth as well as Scottish Open glory.
For the former, that may be problematic; his wife flew into the UK from Sydney on Saturday under the belief she was heading to New York for a family holiday at the start of next week. “I’ll be quite happy to cancel to play in my first major,” said Dodt.
Andy Sullivan, who has already sealed an Open place, displayed flashes of his old self when posting a 67 before the worst of Saturday’s weather set in. At seven under, Sullivan has a real chance of victory.
“Links golf is one of them where you can just have little bits of fortune,” the European Ryder Cup player said. “You can get some poor shots and the contours take it quite close and hit great shots and it goes in the bunker.
“It was tough out there today. I knew from the start if I could just go out and really grind it out today and put a number up there. I knew it was only going to go one way, up the leaderboard.
“So it’s really nice to obviously finish and see myself up there and hopefully I can stay there.”
Graeme McDowell’s 68 moved him to five under. Among those to struggle on moving day were Rickie Fowler, who signed for a 74, Padraig Harrington, who slipped to a 79, and the reigning Open champion, Henrik Stenson, who could score no better than 75. Adam Scott’s 78 meant he fell back to plus two.