Poulter relishing European Tour return on the Gold Coast
Ian Poulter will hope to draw on some fond memories of previous visits to Australia when he makes his debut in this week’s Australian PGA Championship.
The flamboyant Englishman, who is making his first appearance in a regular European Tour event for ten months after undergoing surgery to correct a long-standing foot injury, won the 2011 Australian Masters at Victoria Golf Club, and pushed Adam Scott all the way at Royal Melbourne two years later before eventually succumbing to the home favourite.
Poulter has never before set foot on the Gold Coast and, having been forced to rest for 11 weeks – the longest period he has gone without hitting balls since he took up the game – the 40 year old is keen put last season behind him and make a strong start to the 2017 Race to Dubai.
Poulter will face some stiff competition in his bid to claim a second victory on Australian soil, with World Number Seven Scott, his World Cup of Golf team-mate Marc Leishman and compatriots Scott Hend and Marcus Fraser all intent on continuing the home nation’s remarkable run of success in the tournament.
Twelve months ago, Nathan Holman became the 16th straight home winner of the tournament, but with big-hitting American Harold Varner III, Ryder Cup player Stephen Gallacher and Major winner YE Yang all in the field, the locals are unlikely to have it all their own way at RACV Royal Pines.
Ian Poulter: “The foot’s good. I had to take five months off in the summer, which was pretty frustrating. To take myself out of trying to qualify for a Ryder Cup place, that was pretty hard to take because I obviously love that event so much. But a rest was needed to get the rehab done and to come back strong at the back end of this year, and after this week and next in Hong Kong we’ll reassess and see where we’re going to start next year.
“When you take a big chunk of time off, it’s hard mentally to get back in the frame of mind of playing competitive golf all the time. As nice as it was to take chunks of time off, I haven’t ever been in that type of position before. I was talking to someone today to try and work out when the last time was that I hadn’t hit a ball for 11 weeks, and I can’t ever remember – even as a kid – taking that length of time away from the game. It was a nice break but the difficulty will come from being under pressure to hole putts at the right time.
“You can prepare hitting golf balls, you can play practice rounds, you can get yourself ready in terms of being conditioned to play, but there’s nothing like being under pressure and actually having to do it for real. So it’s about managing those expectations when you come back to play.”
Did you Know?
• The Australian PGA Championship was included on the European Tour International Schedule for the first time when it was held at RACV Royal Pines Resort last December.
• The Australian PGA Championship was the 27th time The European Tour has played an official event on Australia soil.
• The 2016 Australian PGA Championship marked the first time a European Tour event had been held in the state of Queensland.
• Nathan Holman’s winning total of 288 was the highest aggregate to win on the European Tour during the 2016 season.
Tournament: Australian PGA Championship 2016
Venue: RACV Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
Prize fund: A$1.5 million
Source: European Tour (Press Release)
Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images