He may not be the most talented guy out there, he hits it short, misses lots of greens, but as we have seen in his Ryder Cup performances Ian Poulter is a possessed junkyard dog when he sees a title within his reach. His 65-65 over the weekend at the HSBC Champions in China slung him around the pack on his way to grabbing this trophy by the scruff of it’s neck.
There was red everywhere at the Olazabal Course at Mission Hills-birdies were coming in bunches from the entire field on Sunday. Jason Dufner shot 8-under, Scott Piercy 7-under, Nick Watney 10-under, Adam Scott and Ernie Els 5-under. But it was Ian who put his short game and decisive putting to work making 8 birdies through the first sixteen to create a gulf that others could not seem to traverse.
Eerie and unexplainable things started happening to all the pursuers, especially starting at the pivotal par 5 15th hole.
Lee Westwood, who led at the beginning of the day, hit an amazing approach to the par five out of a stepped lie in and out of the fairway bunker. It travelled over water, reeds, and a bevy of bunkers leaving a routine green side up and down for birdie. He proceeded to chunk his pitch short of the green, skinny a pitch over the green, stub a chip onto the green on his way to an untimely bogie. Lee goes into Roberto Duran mode around the greens.
Martin Kaymer, the defending champ seemed to be in deja vu mode as he was storming from behind as he had in last year’s final round. Five birdies on the first seven holes of the back nine got him within shouting distance at 18-under when he hit it a leaky fade into the green side bunker on the par 3 17th. He then skulled his bunker shot across the green into the high grass on the other side, Misty May-Trainored it back into the same bunker on the next pitch, finally found the putting surface, but barely. A two-putt triple bogey six ended his challenge.
Mickey, a two-time winner of this event, had put together six birdies in the first fifteen holes and looked like he was going to grab Ian by the tail and reel him in. Hunting the flag with a routine knock down approach into sixteen he misjudged the bounce on the front of the green leaving himself a monster two-putt for par from the back edge to stay alive. Then on the par 3 17th he hit a left handed draw that didn’t and missed the green entirely into the gnarly grass below the green side bunker. His first pitch was a near fan job on a change-up that did not get out of the batter’s box to reach the putting surface. Even he could not avoid the evil decree and make the par pitch, so his bogey left him two afar with one to play.
Poulter’s bogey on seventeen and missing the approach to eighteen into the green side bunker gave a ray of hope to those behind. But as he had done all day he deftly pitched it to about twelve feet and buried the par save to guarantee the win and take home the $1.2 winners check.
In vintage Poulter style he said, “I’ve already spent the check last week. Yes, it was a vehicle and yes, it was very expensive”.
Guess he had a premonition.