RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico – There have been lots of thin, rectangular packages arriving to the doorstep outside Ian Poulter’s Lake Nona residence in Orlando, Fla. Inside them are putters. Lots of putters. Enough to consume significant space in his massive garage.
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Poulter, 45, competing at this week’s Puerto Rico Open, says every six or seven years it simply becomes a necessary evil to hold putter tryouts. He summons putter manufacturers from around the globe – in summer 2013, it was via Twitter – with a singular message: Help!!
“My putting has been unacceptable,” said Poulter, who shot 3-under 69 Saturday and sits T22 – despite not having fewer than 29 putts in any of his three rounds. Saturday he benched the gamer he’d used for two rounds and broke out a different Odyssey Toulon model. (An Odyssey source didn’t know which one, stating Poulter might have traveled to Puerto Rico with as many as six Toulon putters.) The putter change, coupled with some hard work on the practice green Friday afternoon – Poulter moved his ball back in his stance, and his hands forward – at least provided Poulter with some promising signs. He poured in five birdies on his opening nine.
“It’s all about holing the putts, and not about how good you play,” said Poulter, who was sixth in Strokes Gained: Putting last season. “I’ve been playing some really good golf. I didn’t putt well in the Middle East the first three weeks of the year and that’s a real shame, because I had an opportunity, the way I played, to have a really nice start to the year. I didn’t do that. That was annoying.”
So Poulter, sent out a signal to putter manufacturers everywhere, much the way a light might shine into the sky from Gotham City. Sean Toulon, Scotty Cameron, Bob Bettinardi, Tyson Lamb and Logan Olson were just a handful of putter makers who heeded the call. Poulter said he has been through this valley before, and it has turned out fine.
“I throw a ‘May Day’ call out there to the world of putters,” said Poulter, ranked 59th in the world. “I’m in that spell of messing with putters. There are so many great putter manufacturers. I don’t have a putter contract for that reason, just in case someone brings out something I like, I want to be able to use it.”
Though frustrated not to make this week’s field at the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession – two of Poulter’s three PGA TOUR titles have been WGCs – his ballstriking has been so sound that he can’t help but be encouraged. Puerto Rico marks the first of five consecutive starts, and Poulter plans to play seven of eight weeks through April’s Masters.
“It’s some of the best golf I’ve ever played in my life,” he said. “I feel if I can continue the trend and keep hitting it well, then things will be good. … Sometimes you just have to play your way through and see the light at the end of the tunnel.”