The Masters: Poulter backs up his words
AUGUSTA, Ga. ó The cheer was as loud anything Ian Poulter had heard, to be expected after a hole-in-one Thursday on the 16th hole of the Masters before thousands of fans perched on a hill above the green.
He plucked the ball from the cup and held it with two fingers to salute the crowd, a most appropriate signal.
That’s his nickname these days ó world No. 2.
Even with his spiked hair and outrageous wardrobe, Poulter was ridiculed earlier this year for an interview with a British golf magazine in which he suggested he alone was the only player capable of challenging Tiger Woods.
Poulter certainly looked the part in the first round at Augusta National.
He nearly made a hole-in-one on No. 4, the toughest par 3 on the course, and gave himself birdie opportunities on all but two holes. His opening 2-under 70 was his best start at the Masters, and earned a piece of crystal for an ace he won’t soon forget.
“Massive. Unbelievable buzz,” Poulter said. “It was a special moment, and the hairs on the back of your neck were standings up.”
Now if he can get everyone to forget about that interview.
Poulter has only seven victories, all on the European Tour. He has only one top 10 in a major, a tied for ninth at Medinah in the 2006 PGA Championship when he finished nine shots behind Woods.
So it was surprising when he told Golf World U.K. that he doesn’t rate anyone else.
“Don’t get me wrong. I really respect every professional golfer,” Poulter said. “But I know I haven’t played to my full potential, and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger.”
It wasn’t a knock on Woods, rather the two dozen players ahead of him in the world ranking, many of them his European peers. The ribbing came from every direction, even from the world’s No. 1. Woods was leaving the locker room at the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona when he turned the corner and passed Poulter, saying, “Hey, No. 2.”
Poulter said his comments were taken out of context, and so was the reaction.