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May 9, 2018
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
JACK RYAN: We'd like to welcome Ian Poulter to the 2018 PLAYERS Championship. Ian's a two time runner-up of the event, finished T-2 last year. You're in good form; you must feel pretty confident coming into this week.
IAN POULTER: Yeah, I feel pretty good. I got a first look at the course yesterday, I played 1, 2, 3, 4, and I'll be going out on the back nine this afternoon. Course is in great shape, and hopefully we can go one better than last year.
JACK RYAN: That T-2 last season was your first top-10 of the year. Since then you've got four, including a win at the 2018 Houston Open. Have you looked back at that event last year here at THE PLAYERS as kind of a springboard to success for you getting back in good form?
IAN POULTER: I definitely think it was a huge part of 2017 for me. Just to be told I was exempt to play was a huge bonus, and obviously to then kick on from that and play well, finishing runner-up, obviously enabled me to go back to Europe and play a bit more and really kind of work on a schedule. And that was obviously very helpful into obviously the start of 2018, which has been a pretty good start to the year.
JACK RYAN: We'll get started with questions, please.
Q. When this tournament goes back to March next year and we go back to the bentgrass and the different wind, will that require any huge adjustment on the part of the players compared to the conditions you get in May?
IAN POULTER: It could be a little softer, I think. It's going to be firm and fast this week, obviously different wind. I mean, this course, I've played this course in every type of wind, so it's just about refamiliarizing yourself with the conditions because they will be slightly different, but the golf course itself, it won't change too much.
Q. You just mentioned about being the springboard last year getting that tie for second. Before that tournament, how unsettling is it when you can't have a schedule in your mind, and how damaging is it for confidence for you?
IAN POULTER: Well, it really wasn't nice to be in that position, and it's not very easy to be able to plan any type of a schedule. So from that standpoint, yeah, it's difficult. It's mentally tough to work out what it is you're doing week in, week out, but to get that runner-up position, to be able then to, as you said, work on a plan schedule to know where you're going, what you're doing, someone who's quite OCD to not know what they're doing is not very good. So to have stuff mapped out is quite nice. I've got the rest of this year mapped out; I know what I'm doing, where I'm going, and that's quite a nice feeling.
So, yeah, last year was a bit chaotic, to be honest. Certainly at the start of the year, a lot of unknowns, but we have managed to turn that around.
Q. Did you doubt yourself at all pre that tie for second last year?
IAN POULTER: I should say no, but I mean you always -- in the position I was in, you always -- there's someone in the back of the head there saying, you know, asking you questions all the time. You guys were asking lots of questions, and I was asking myself lots of questions. So to be able to come through that tough period, be able to deliver was good, and obviously playing on confidence is a lot better for my state of mind than obviously the doubts.
Q. You're playing with sort of a clear head these days. Do you feel like you're playing with house money, given all of the roller coaster up-and-downs you had over the last year and you're starting to see maybe your best stuff such as the first three rounds of RBC?
IAN POULTER: I don't play in casinos. I guess that's playing with their money, right? Yeah, I mean it's a nice position to be in. To play free, to have goals fresh in your mind, long-term goals, is a good position, rather than week-to-week goals. It takes a lot of pressure off you. You can play freer, you can plan your schedule, you can enjoy your golf a bit more. Yeah, I mean it's a lot easier to play golf with that clear mind than obviously a busy one.
Q. And then secondly, I think you had a meeting with Paul Dunkley where you just sat down and said look, let's just clarify things, let's keep the main thing the main thing and maybe change your emphasis a little bit to just the golf. Could you talk a little bit about that.
IAN POULTER: It wasn't just a meeting, it was like five days of really working out a plan, a go-forward plan, trying to simplify my whole, my life, my on-course, my off-course businesses, just really restructure what it is I have, I have to do, put some emphasis on the important things, and the stuff that really isn't that important, just get rid of it. And clear up the distractions. There's been a few of those, and because of that five days last March, yeah, we changed a lot of things, simplified my mindset into just playing golf again, and that was a good thing.
Q. Monday was the seventh anniversary of losing Seve. I know he's a very big inspiration to you. The last time I saw him was when he took over your body on the third shot on 18 last year to make that great up-and-in and save it.
IAN POULTER: Fourth shot.
Q. How much is confidence, you've got the Medinah putter back in the bag. For you personally, now that you're healthy, how much does confidence and inspiration, especially during a Ryder Cup year, affect your performance in a positive way?
IAN POULTER: Confidence is everything. I think when you're the type of player that I am, that has pulled on confidence throughout my whole career, to have a level of confidence is a really good thing. I've had to pull on it a number of times. So to be able to be in that position where you can lean a little bit on your confidence, even when your game's not quite there, shots like that last year was shots that had to be pulled off and, yeah, there was inspiration from a number of players through the years who you've seen pull off great shots. That was one that was one special up-and-down. It was very helpful for the rest of 2017 to do that. I'm actually going to pop out there later on this afternoon to see if I can redo it.
Q. As far as the FedExCup playoffs go, you've put yourself in really good position with a win now to make it to the TOUR Championship. How important is that to you to make it there, stay within the Top-30 and compete for the FedExCup?
IAN POULTER: It's not important at all. I have never made it there. So I'm not -- it is important but it's not important. My season this year is going to really be focused about playing great golf. There's an event late September which means a lot to me, and obviously I'm going to want to put myself in that position. So after this week I'll head back to Europe. I'm going to base myself in Europe for the summer. I'll come back and play U.S. Open, and obviously I want to stay in that Top-30, and I want to move up. But I'm not looking at it that I have to do it. I've put too much emphasis on that in the past trying to make push and runs to get in.
You can move so much once you just make it in the playoffs. I think we have seen guys move from outside the top 100 and comfortably get in. So for me it's not in my mind; I've got other things I want to work on. I've got tournaments that I really want to focus on winning and events that I really want to make.
Not saying that I don't want to make the TOUR Championship, but I get enough abuse from the guys week in week out that I've never made it there, so if I don't make it, I don't make it. But I would like to play, obviously, in the Ryder Cup in September.
Q. At the moment we're seeing other Europeans, notable Europeans, in a similar position to where you were 12 months ago. I'm thinking like Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald. Just wonder, I mean, any of those players reached out to you for advice, or have you had talks with them or whether you think your story might prove inspirational for them?
IAN POULTER: Not that they have reached out. I played with Graeme a couple of weeks ago in New Orleans, and to talk about confidence is a funny thing because Graeme is just a tiny bit of confidence away from playing great golf. What I saw and how we played in foursomes and where his game is, he's actually playing really well. And I think for him I see exactly what was happening with myself; you get frustrated on the golf course, you know you're working hard, you're not getting the results, and that's mentally challenging and difficult to accept when you're a great player.
I think once Graeme gets a little bit of confidence, once he gets a couple of decent results, that's going to be his springboard to getting right back where we know he's capable of playing. I think Luke's on a medical now. I haven't spoke to him. I think someone told me a week ago that he's going to be on medical leave. I guess that's a very similar situation where I found myself a couple of years ago, and hopefully he's going to come back strong. Hopefully the time off's going to help him recover.
But same thing; confidence is everything, and when you -- when you're struggling, you're struggling, and you just can't see through the trees. So hopefully he can come back fit and healthy, and when he does get some confidence I can see him coming back.
Q. You said that you were able to go from thinking week-to-week to being able to think to long-term goals again. Did that go immediately to the Ryder Cup, and how much did that lift you to be able to do that?
IAN POULTER: I mean, it lifted me a lot. I'm obviously a ways away from making the team. I've picked up a good chunk of World Ranking points. I think I'm extremely close if not next man in on points list right now, but there's a big bunch of guys right behind me that are going to be pressing, obviously, to make that side. I know what I need to do to make the team and that is play consistent golf throughout the summer. I need some big finishes, and I know I'm one week away from obviously securing that spot.
It's on my mind. It's something that I want to be there in the right capacity, and I'm focused and determined to do it.
Q. You touched on goals, and in terms of goals, you're only 42. Players your age and onwards --
IAN POULTER: I like you say only 42, that's nice.
Q. Still older than me, but anyway, but players from that age onward have still achieved an awful lot. What do you think your career can legitimately deliver from here on in?
IAN POULTER: I hate making predictions.
Q. What do you hope it delivers?
IAN POULTER: Well, I hope to continue the level of form I'm in, because I've put myself in good position after Houston. Having a chance to win kind of the next time out was pretty good. There's still things, there's still mistakes I'm making on the golf course, there's still things I'm working on to try and get better, and I feel I've got a lot more in me to give. With that in mind, I think I can still win big tournaments. I still think I can win a major. Other guys have done that over the age of 42, and I would like to think I still can.
Q. Everybody out here is self-made to a certain extent, but you seem more self-made than others considering your route to the professional golf ranks. How much are you still the same young man fighting his way out of being a teacher to becoming one of the best players in the world, and how much does that still help you when things are tough when you're injured, when you lose your card, et cetera?
IAN POULTER: It helps me a lot. I did an interview last week at home, and I was just going through my teaching diary from '97, '98, which was quite fun. I hadn't really sat down and looked at it a lot. I knew it was in the cupboard, but to come from the pro shop, to come the route that I chose to make it out here is a different one. It's not the norm, but it was my norm. So I don't take my position too lightly out here. I want to deliver, and I always have to sit back and pinch myself week in week out to think of what I've achieved in the game of golf and in the Ryder Cups, because it's been a hell of a journey.
I think there's a lot more to give. I still feel young enough and have enough energy to give a lot more, and hopefully I can do that.
Q. What did you find in the diary? Anything interesting?
IAN POULTER: Yeah, there was three lessons on March the 25th back then which, yeah, I can still remember.
Q. Back to the schedule quickly, when you say you're going to be over there in the summer, apart from the majors, is that the case?
IAN POULTER: Yes.
Q. And then Ryder Cup, how much do you find yourself thinking about it sort of on a regular basis and/or being in contact with Thomas and so forth?
IAN POULTER: I mean, obviously it's a massive goal. It's on my mind. I think I'll think about it a lot when I get to the French Open. Probably to be there, to kind of sense what it's going to mean, there will be a lot of emphasis on that week to play well. Apart from the odd conversation with Thomas, which I had a couple of weeks ago, certainly after the win it was good to chat to him, to get to know what he's thinking. It's a week that I absolutely love, so I need to really focus hard on the next three months, four months, big European push. Obviously there's a lot of points to play for in Europe. I think the points total is 1.5 times in those Rolex events. So I'm really trying to focus on making sure I make that team and don't have to be a pick.
Q. You talked about that clarity that you would find looking through the forest-through-the-trees type idea. Can you talk about a seminal moment where you found that clarity in regards to on the course that got your game in the right position?
IAN POULTER: It may have been that 116-yard shot that landed here on 18 last year. I mean, as simple as that to be honest. I was looking for one massive week to really -- a stepping stone where I thought my game was. So it was a turnaround of one shot, really, to open up the rest of the calendar season, to open up and get my head in the right position. It's as simple as that shot on the last hole I hit last year.
Q. Secondly, how important from a European standpoint would it be for a Frenchman to be on the team in France?
IAN POULTER: I mean, obviously for France it would be huge for a Frenchman to make that team. As a player, you want guys that are in form. You want guys that are fresh and ready to go, and if that happens this year, then it would definitely be a boost to the Ryder Cup team. It would be a boost to all the players, obviously, if a Frenchman makes that side.
Q. So this is actually a non-golf question. We're in the final days of Arsene Wenger's reign at Arsenal. 22 years he's been the manager of the club you support since you're 20 years old, given you some great times and not such great times in a mix. How would you reflect, and how emotional is this week as an Arsenal fan?
IAN POULTER: Well, it's a big week for Arsenal. It's a big week for Arsenal fans. It's a big change about to happen at a great club, one that I've obviously been a fan of for a very long time. I think what he's been able to achieve as a football manager is extremely impressive, even though the trophy cabinet hasn't quite got in it what perhaps a lot of fans would have liked to have had in it over the last 10 years. But as a manager of a club and how successful he's been from managing that from a money perspective, player perspective, building a new stadium. He's done an incredible job, and he should be respected for the job he's done.
Time for a new manager, time for a new team, a new look, and hopefully that can deliver more trophies.
JACK RYAN: Thanks for your time Ian, best of luck this week.
IAN POULTER: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports