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July 20, 2017

Ian Poulter

Southport, England

MIKE WOODCOCK: I'd like to welcome Ian Poulter into the interview room. Ian is currently tied for the lead at 3-under.

Ian, obviously after coming in through final qualifying, you must be delighted to get off to such a great start.

IAN POULTER: Yeah, it was a great day. Always knew it was going to be pretty strong winds today, that's what the forecast was. And as I sat down to review the weather last night with the yardage book in hand, I kind of planned or plotted away around this golf course to try and keep out of the fairway bunkers. A couple of holes I may have played it a little bit too safe, but I was more committed with the putter in hand today, and I think that showed, definitely holing a few more putts than what I hold over the last few weeks.

And obviously Sunday was a disappointment last week. But today I hit a lot of good putts, and hit a lot of good shots, and it adds up to a good score.

Q. Having missed last year and coming through the way you have, do you think it makes you appreciate it more being out there today?
IAN POULTER: It certainly makes me enjoy it a bit more. Commentating last year on Thursday and Friday was no one. To be out with injury last year and miss an Open was tough. And obviously it's quite nice to obviously go through qualifying, to go out there, post a red number today, when the last time I played here in 2008 was a pretty good 69 on a tough day, as well.

My last two rounds on this golf course have been good ones. And I'm pretty happy with the result today.

Q. Speaking to Thomas Bjorn, he actually tipped you to win here, because he thought you were beginning to strut again a little bit louder. And are you aware that when you're playing well that you kind of walk differently?
IAN POULTER: Didn't know I was a strutter. I'm definitely playing with a bit more confidence and that's definitely showed over the last couple of months. THE PLAYERS Championship was a big week for me. I think that was a huge turning point. And I'm definitely a freer player on the golf course. I can be more aggressive. I can hit more of the shots that I'm kind of visualizing, and I think I've done a lot of good work with Pete and even with myself on camera to look at -- try to maintain a consistent level of ball-striking and it shows.

Obviously I was in position last week, didn't finish it off, and I've come out strong again this week. So hopefully we can continue that form over the next three days on a golf course that's a very good and strong Open Championship venue.

Q. What do you think led to that confidence since The PLAYERS? Was it a mental change? Was it a mechanical change that you've made?
IAN POULTER: Probably a bit of -- probably a calculation error, I would say. To know you're in a tournament and you can go out and enjoy it and be a little bit more aggressive makes a big difference. And that definitely showed at The PLAYERS, at least definitely showed over the last six weeks on the golf course. I'm definitely playing with my confidence, and hopefully I can continue that and continue to grow that confidence level.

Q. Can you take us back a couple of weeks to the qualifier. What was it like going back? What was it like to qualify there? How special was it to go through there and get to here?
IAN POULTER: It was a special day. I think to try and qualify for this championship is a big deal. For it to be in your home club with huge support was amazing. I thought there would be quite a decent gallery, and it turned out there were several thousand turned out to watch.

I certainly felt a bit of pressure. Pressure to obviously make sure I take one of those three spots. The morning round I played -- I just played careful, tried to not make any silly mistakes. And shot a good 4-under par in the afternoon, had a little agonizing wait for about 45 minutes for a couple of guys to come through and finish.

So it was very pleasing to know you're in this week. It's a huge boost to be able to play this week. Dropping out of the top 50 is not helpful. Not playing majors and WGC's is something obviously that I haven't been used to over a long period of time. So that's been difficult.

So to get back in on a golf course that I like and that I've performed well on, it was very pleasing to get it done, and it's obviously very nice today to play well.

Q. Related to that, you had great support out there. Do you get the feeling that people appreciate you made the effort to go and qualify, because as you said, how important this tournament is to you?
IAN POULTER: A lot of people have come up and said not just, "Well done for qualifying," but, "Well done for playing the qualifier." So that is a surprise, to have so many people say that to me. It's something that you should do. If you're in a position to try and qualify for the best event in the world, then you should make the effort to go and do it. They are giving three spots away, and there is a great opportunity to get in this championship and obviously go on and hopefully win it.

But definitely there was a little bit of extra pressure, for sure. The expectation level as one of the highest-ranked players there on the qualifying, you're under pressure to take one of those three spots. But it was definitely something I was always going to do. It's paid off right now.

Q. How many times did you hit driver today?
IAN POULTER: Probably four times. I hit a hybrid 328 yards on -- I can't remember which hole -- it was straight downwind. You don't have to hit driver out there. You just have to get it in play, just keep it out of those cross bunkers. But it's hard to predict, because we didn't -- thankfully I hit it a little left of where I was aiming it at the two bunkers, which were 310 to reach.

Links golf is fantastic. You don't have to hit driver many places. Alex Noren chose the opposite to what I was doing; he was hitting a lot of drivers. He was trying to take out those cross bunkers to try and get over them. There's no right or wrong way to play this golf course, you just need to stay out of those traps.

Q. When your name went on the leaderboard, there was a real growing buzz there. Is that something you're aware of and something you can feed off?
IAN POULTER: Absolutely incredible crowds today. The Open Championship is extremely special from a fan perspective and from a player to be clapped on to every single green, it means a lot.

Players love playing here. They love playing in The Open, and spectators respect that, as well. And they really make you feel great out on the golf course, and I felt that today. They definitely gave me a little bit of a buzz. And they gave me a bit of energy on the greens, as well.

Q. You've mentioned you love this course. Can you pinpoint what you think it is that suits you around here? And you also said about plotting your way around today and being quite cautious; more of that tomorrow, do you think?
IAN POULTER: Yeah, it's a golf course where you have to respect the course. Obviously wind dependent, I mean the practise round earlier in the week was irrelevant, to be honest. On Tuesday it was the opposite wind to what we've had today. So the practise round really wasn't very helpful. What was helpful was the wind today was like it was on Sunday last time it was played in 2008.

So to look at the yardage book last night and know where kind of driver is going to finish, if you can hit driver, and where hybrid on certain holes is going to finish, as well. So I almost played a round of golf last night in my head and I had a lower score in my head last night than I did today, but don't we all?

So it's a good golf course. I've only played it twice, and both those times I've been in The Open.

Q. You mentioned that you were playing well in Scotland last week on Sunday and didn't quite get it done. If you get to Sunday in that same position this week, what do you have to do differently?
IAN POULTER: I think I have to be more aggressive on the greens. I have to have more focus. There definitely wasn't the focus there last Sunday. Otherwise I wouldn't three-putt three times. That's unusual for me, especially on greens that aren't running very quick. I'm normally an aggressive putter. Three of those three-putts came from leaving it a little bit too far short. So there was a commitment level today to make sure I was a bit more aggressive, and a bit more willing the ball in the hole, like I have through past events.

Q. It's very difficult to convert on a Sunday. It's obviously different, the tensions are different. Why do you think that is? Why do you lack that aggression, not just you, but any golfer on a Sunday? What's going on?
IAN POULTER: I don't believe there was the -- the adrenaline wasn't there on Sunday. It was quite flat in my group on Sunday. You shouldn't have to get up for Sunday. But every time I made an inroad into making a birdie, I gave it away on the following hole. And that's really damaging, that's very hard to take. I got knocked a few times last Sunday, and even with those knocks I kept trying to get back in. And it didn't happen.

So it was a very flat Sunday. I don't intend to be as flat hopefully this Sunday.

Q. You took the opportunity to qualify to play The Open, why did you miss it for the U.S. Open?
IAN POULTER: Because the schedule was too chaotic to be able to get there, really. And it was an awful lot of golf to be able to get there. And it worked out pretty good to go from France back to my home back in the UK, which is 15 minutes from my house, Woburn. It was very easy to get back and have a lot of time to be able to prepare to qualify. And that wasn't the case for the U.S. Open.

Q. When you were injured, when you weren't playing well, did you think there would ever be a point where you wouldn't be playing majors again? Did you think this point wouldn't come again?
IAN POULTER: I've definitely had some low spots in the last 18 months. And certainly 12 months, I was getting very down. It's easy to be down when you feel you're a great player and all of a sudden you're hampered with a bit of injury. You're not getting the results you want. It's very easy to slide away.

So I'm proud of the way I've been able to refocus, get things back on the straight and narrow, clear away some of the noise in the background, and get back to really focusing hard on what I need to do to get the level of golf back that I think I can play.

Q. Could you pick a couple of shots for us then from the round today that particularly pleased you. And how many times during the round did you think about the last round in 2008?
IAN POULTER: To answer the last question, I didn't think about 2008 until the putt on the last, to be honest. I splashed out of the bunker. The pin was kind of in that right-hand area. So that only sort of popped up into my head really on that last kind of seven foot par-putt. Missing the green to the right was a similar -- was similar to how it happened in '08.

But a key hole for me was 10 today. I didn't hit a very committed 4-iron off the tee. Let myself way back in the rough, chopped it forward to 65 yards and the sand wedge shot right there, which I stiffed, you know, that was a good -- that was a good save. After birdieing 9, it would have been a shame to have let that go.

I played 9 -- 9's a tricky hole, even though it's 4-iron, pitching wedge today, it's still tricky to put it in position off the tee. It's a blind fairway.

So, yeah, 10 being a par, it was the best par of the day.

Q. You mentioned playing under pressure to get here to qualify, do you feel freed up here? Do you feel playing a little bit without pressure here now?
IAN POULTER: Yeah, it's a massive bonus, to be able to qualify to add this to a schedule, and a schedule which this adds of both Order of Merits. I haven't played an event that adds to both Order of Merits, and it's nice. It's the feeling I used to have to know to play well in a major or WGC; it really helps. It's a great feeling, it really is. Today's meant a lot.

Tomorrow is going to be brutal. And today was -- it was good to post a red number, considering what we've got coming tomorrow.

Q. What were you like at home in those five weeks when you weren't in any major championships?
IAN POULTER: Five months.

Q. Didn't you miss five straight majors?
IAN POULTER: Yes, I think I did. Well, I mean last year I was commentating for the first two days, which was difficult. I think that's one of the most difficult things I've done. The other difficult thing I've done is obviously not playing Ryder Cup and being a vice-captain. The experience was amazing, but it was very, very hard. As someone that's played quite a few majors, now I chose not to watch a lot of the golf because it was too disappointing to watch TV.

I tried to spend more time with the kids and enjoy that time rather than sit there and have disappointment on my face. It's too easy to get down when you're not playing those big tournaments. And it's easy to get down when golf seems to be pretty difficult. It makes it even more special to be back here today playing.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Ian, very well played. Thanks for joining us today.

IAN POULTER: Thank you.

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