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March 17, 2010

Ian Poulter


MARK WILLIAMS: Ian Poulter, thanks for joining us here in the interview room at the Transitions Championship. This is your first trip to this event. You've played the Pro-Am this morning. Just talk about what you found out on the golf course and what you think of it.
IAN POULTER: Sure, it is my first time here, and my caddie has been here a few times, so he's kind of done a few loops, and went around there yesterday and kind of positioned a way for us to get around the golf course this week.
I like the way it sets up. There's going to be some tricky tee shots out there, and you're going to have to move the ball right-to-left and left-to-right, which is good, and it's all about positional play. And the way the greens play, there's a lot of emphasis on distance control of your irons. So if you can keep it below the hole most of these greens, you're going to have a great chance.
MARK WILLIAMS: Not having played here before, what was in the decision-making to come here for the first time?
IAN POULTER: I think looking at the way I've planned my schedule, I wanted to have a little bit of time off before the Masters. With that in mind, I've taken next week and Houston off. So I didn't really want to leave a three-week gap, so that's the reason why we've come to and play.
MARK WILLIAMS: You've had a 63 and 64 already this year along with a victory in the Match Play; do you think there's a 63 or 64 out there for you this week?
IAN POULTER: I think if you play great, yeah, you can shoot a good score around here. It was very calm weather conditions this morning. Could I have seen a 63 or 64? Yeah, if you play exceptionally well. I think the greens are a little sandy, which is obviously due to the weather.
So if someone plays exceptionally well, yeah, you might be able to shoot that score. But I think typically, the winning score around this place is normally under 10-under par, I believe.

Q. There have been a lot of favorable comments about the course; has word-of-mouth, did that have any influence on your decision to come? Have other players talked about the place?
IAN POULTER: Yeah, I mean, I've had reports from other players that have said the golf course is good. It's not a normal Florida golf course. As I say, there's lots of tricky tee shots, there's lots of holes tree-lined, and I quite enjoy that definition.
So, it is a very good test of golf. There are some good par 3s out there and the greens are fairly firm. It will be a good test and it is a good golf course.

Q. I can imagine as a guy that wears pink on the golf course, you've probably been heckled or cat-called once or twice in your career and The Ryder Cup you were kind of a marked man, probably playing on foreign soil, probably heard a little bit there; when your antenna and up and you hear things, how do you respond to it, positively, negatively? Do you turn that around and use that as petrol for your fire? What is the best way to turn a bad crowd to your advantage?
IAN POULTER: I guess stuff it in there to two feet and knock it in. Yeah, I would use that as fuel in some way to kind of silence them in any way, shape or form that you can. The only way that you can really do that is to pull off some good golf shots, and you won't get heckled.

Q. How much of this week is about tournament and how much of is it gearing toward Augusta? And as kind of the second part of that question -- well, if you can handle that one first, I'll go on to the other one.
IAN POULTER: I think this week, especially with the way this golf course sets up with the tee shots, with there being definition with the trees, I like the way this golf course sets up. So therefore, visually off the tee, it's kind of similar in that aspect, and, yeah, my -- I'm here to try and win this golf tournament. And although I'm not thinking about Augusta yet, it is there, and I have got practice plans for the next two weeks to try and work out my best way to get around Augusta National.
First and foremost, I'm here to win this golf tournament. And it's a new golf course that I have had to learn today, so I'm going to have to sit down with Terry again and work out exactly what we did right and wrong this morning, and work out how we can win this golf tournament.
But I guess your second question is about preparation for Masters?

Q. Second question is if you can imagine that the first major of the year was the U.S. Open or the PGA, do you think as much build-up/tune-up, would it be the same, from a player's perspective of thinking shots?
IAN POULTER: I guess practice would be a little different. I think you would slightly change your practice routine. I mean, U.S. Open emphasis is really driving the ball straight, putting it in position. And obviously we know the rough is normally thick around the greens, and that isn't the case at Augusta National.
You know, you try and prepare for each major and give yourself as much preparation on the same kind of soil, the same kind of surface, the same lies that you're going to get, so you don't get any surprises that week.
So, yeah, if the first one of the year was the U.S. Open, I probably wouldn't be doing as much practice where I'm going to be practicing. I'm going to try and find somewhere with plenty of rough, lots of tight tee shots, to prepare that way.

Q. So where do you intend on trying to get some of that work in?
IAN POULTER: For Augusta?

Q. Yeah?
IAN POULTER: At Lake Nona. It's perfect. (Laughter).
We had a short game facility bit there a couple of years ago at the back end of the range now. There's lots of run-off areas. There's lots of tight lies. There's a nice bit of elevation change for chipping, as well. You've got some good mounding, which we can hit pretty much any club from, so you can have a ball above your feet, below your feet, sidehill lie, uphill lie, which you're going to get a lot at Augusta National. I'm looking forward to getting on the range and doing some work on those humps and hills.

Q. You probably are about that age when you were a kid, maybe eight, nine, ten, right around in there, watching the Masters on TV for the first time was probably when that first wave of great European players was making some noise; how big of an effect did that have on you, and Faldo and all that? And do you suppose there is some little kid at home right now looking at this new wave of English guys doing the same thing?
IAN POULTER: I can vividly remember Woosie's tartan trousers as he pulled that putt in from about eight feet on the 18th green and bent to his one knee and give it the fist-pump. I remember that like it was yesterday. You know, and I thought back then, wouldn't it be so nice to be in that position.
And I'm sure, you know, kids of that same age, eight, nine, ten, 11, would be doing exactly the same when they are watching TV. They will have their memories, and seeing hopefully an Englishman pull one of these majors off at some stage.

Q. It seems like as a group, yourself, Casey and fisher and all these guys have been knocking on the door; Ross, I think, had the lead twice on the back nine on Sunday last year. As a group, it's as good as it's been, maybe ever, just from the English standpoint.

Q. You start throwing in Irish and everything, you get even more.
IAN POULTER: Yeah, very strong, very, very strong; 4,5 and 6 in the world and a whole load shortly backing that up in the top 20 and Top-30. So it is very, very strong right now.

Q. When you turned pro, and I believe you were scratch --
IAN POULTER: Four handicap.

Q. Did you have realistic expectations of this?

Q. Why?
IAN POULTER: Because I didn't know any different. You know, I just watched golf on TV, and I was working in a pro shop and I thought that was how most of the guys done it. I mean, I was 15 years of age, 14 years of age working in a pro shop. I didn't read too many books or magazines to find out that all of the guys went to college and university in the skates, while my school grades weren't good enough to get me over there in the first place.
I just felt as if I worked hard enough and practiced, then it I would have a chance to get out on Tour and win golf tournaments. Yeah, just naïve of knowing the fact of of what else to do to be honest with you. There was a golf club five miles from my house and I wanted to go and earn some money to pay bills and buy myself a couple of new shoes, and I felt that if I worked hard, I could be on Tour one day.

Q. What was your first win as a pro, how much was your first win?
IAN POULTER: I turned assistant in '95, I think it was April '95 and I played my first tournament a month after, which was the Penzana Classic, at a course a few miles from where Faldo grew up, and I shot 66-66, I won £1,500, which was six, seven weeks wages, so I figured two days work, it was kind of nice, compared to doing six or seven weeks in the pro shop. So I figured I better get out of the shop a bit more.

Q. And bought what with it?
IAN POULTER: I bought a new car.

Q. New? Used?
IAN POULTER: It was a rust bucket. (Laughter).

Q. What was it?
IAN POULTER: It was a Fiesta XR2. I've even got a picture on my phone of it.

Q. Why do you keep a picture?
IAN POULTER: I'm proud of it. At the time that was a lot of money for me.

Q. That was a trophy on wheels?
IAN POULTER: Hell, yeah. It was a forward Fiesta XR2. It was a nice, blue rust bucket.

Q. Do you have the Lamborghini picture on there?
IAN POULTER: Yeah I have some nice pictures on there. It was nice to have on there. It was the car I was driving at 19. So kind of just --

Q. How far you've come?

Q. Knowing what you know now, how unconventional was the way you made it?
IAN POULTER: Very. I mean, just putting that up for the number of guys that have worked in a pro shop for seven years and that are PGA-qualified. I really don't know that many that are PGA-qualified to be honest with you.
MARK WILLIAMS: Rod Pampling and Peter Lonard would be two.
IAN POULTER: There's not many. I mean, Damien McGrane I think from Europe. Maybe Robert Rock. There's just very few guys that have done it that way.

Q. What duties did you have early on? Were you hosing out the golf barn; the cart barn --
IAN POULTER: In the U.K., not quite. There wasn't really a cart barn. It was trollies. So I was doing regrips. I worked out pretty quickly that I made commission quite nicely off doing regrips and club repairs. So the second I got in, I went out the back cutting grips up and doing as many of them as I possibly could, because it just helped with the paycheck.
So changing guys' spikes nice, sweaty three-year-old stinking shoes you that you put your hands in to take out the spikes that they should have changed 2 1/2 years previous but they hadn't and so you had to drill them out. It was quite nice. (Laughter).
Real rusted. You know the ones. After three years is kind of generous; it might have been 23-year-old shoes that I changed.

Q. Just changing gears, your thoughts on Tiger's return and if you wanted to be anywhere near that pairing on Thursday, Friday or what do you think it's going to be like?
IAN POULTER: I think it will be great to have him back playing golf. So yeah, I'm looking forward to him coming back and playing golf.

Q. Is that a pairing you want to be around on Thursday or Friday --
IAN POULTER: I don't see Augusta National that there's going to be -- it's not like you're going to have a zoo following Tiger around. It will be busy, but they limit the tickets on a Thursday to 20,000. I mean, you know, it's 15,000 or 20,000. You can only get a certain amount of people down those holes. It's going to be no different to be honest with you. He pulls a crowd and has pulled a crowd big in the past and the guys who play in front of him or behind him, we have all been there and played. So it will be fine.

Q. You've been a pretty straightforward competitor, and he has built up some intimidation with some guys; do you think that inside the ropes, is that something he's going to have to rebuild or the same there as it ever was?
IAN POULTER: I don't know. We haven't seen him on a golf course have we.

Q. Does he seem more human now after what's happened? He was ten feet tall and bulletproof and now he has a few flaws -- like we all do.
IAN POULTER: I mean, everybody has a flaw, don't they. Nobody's perfect. But I see him as world No. 1 out on the golf course. I don't know him personally. I don't really know him personally. Does anybody? Not many people really know him personally. I can only talk about Tiger the golfer, because that's the only Tiger I really, really know.
Do I see him being any different on the golf course? No, I still see him being focused. I still see him working as hard as he does and still coming out and doing the job that he's done on the golf course over the last 12 or 13 years. I would expect him to come out and have a strong week.

Q. For anybody playing at Augusta for the first time in a long layoff, what difficulties does that major present that maybe others wouldn't, coming off a long layoff like that?
IAN POULTER: You know, I think Augusta is fairly generous off the tee in some respects. The fairways are fairly wide. There's not a lot of rough. So I think that would be an advantage for him in terms of if, you know, he doesn't have to hit it down U.S. Open fairways; so therefore, he can be more relaxed off the tee, for starters.
We have all seen him move the ball right-to-left, left-to-right, and so even if he does hit it slightly wayward, he can still get it up and around the green, and we know his short game is good. I can't imagine his short game is going to be rusty. I'm sure he's been working on it.
So I see it as a good week for him to come back.
MARK WILLIAMS: Ian Poulter, thanks for joining us and good luck at the Transitions Championship.

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