Herts man Poulter looks forward after breezing into second place at the Open
Alan Booth reports from Royal Birkdale IAN POULTER came so close on Sunday to following Nick Faldo as Hertfordshire s second Open Champion, and for a time as the players battled against the fierce winds that pounded them and the Royal Birkdale course
Alan Booth reports from Royal Birkdale
IAN POULTER came so close on Sunday to following Nick Faldo as Hertfordshire's second Open Champion, and for a time as the players battled against the fierce winds that pounded them and the Royal Birkdale course, it seemed a real possibility as he moved into a tie for the lead.
In the end, he had to settle for runner-up as Ireland's Padraig Harrington claimed the famous Claret Jug for the second year, and as Australian Greg Norman could not sustain a gallant bid for a third title at the age of 53.
All praise for Hitchin-born Poulter, who has shown that he has the talent and the ability to take his place as a world-class star and become a real challenger for a major title.
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As he reflects on his performance, he will no doubt dwell on what might have been, and particularly on two holes near the end of his third round, the par fives 15 and 17, both of which he bogeyed, after collecting three birdies the previous two days. But, as he said after his final putt for a one under par 69 and a total of 287, four strokes behind Harrington, "You never look back, it's too easy to do that - I've put on a decent show, and when I birdied 16 I thought I had a good chance to win."
In the worst continuous conditions I have seen players endure in Opens I have attended over the years, he had battled bravely to keep in touch with the lead - rounds of 72 71 at halfway were a tribute to his skill in coping with winds up to 40 miles an hour as well as torrential downpours.
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He summed it up after the third day which saw him slip to 75, to be eight over par and six strokes behind leader Norman and four behind Harrington.
"It was brutally, brutally difficult," he said. It was tougher than I would ever have imagined. I had to back off a number of putts, but just trying to preserve your score was difficult. I didn't make a birdie today, and I bogeyed the two par fives coming in when I was looking to pick up shots. But I've got 18 holes of good golf left in me."
How well he proved that as he savoured the cheers from record crowds as he holed his final putt for par at 18.
While Harrington collected £750,000 for victory, Poulter claimed second prize of £450,000.
Poulter, 32, was playing in his eighth Open since his first appearance at St Andrews in 2000, his best finish being tied 11th five years later, again at St Andrews.
Three times champion Nick Faldo, who made his Open debut at Birkdale in 1976, celebrated his 51st birthday a day ahead of the first round. He played at Carnoustie last year, but missed playing this year with his commitments as Ryder Cup captain and US commentator, but intends to compete at Turnberry next year.
*History note: On the 16th hole (then it was the 15th) a plaque commemorates the first Open victory of Arnold Palmer in 1961 when in similar stormy conditions, with play suspended on one day, he hit a spectacular rescue shot from behind a bush to lead after three rounds and go on to win by a shot from Dai Rees with Neil Coles third.