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May 5, 2010

Ian Poulter


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Ian Poulter, welcome to THE PLAYERS Championship. You won the Accenture Match Play Championship, part of the World Golf Championships, earlier this season, and in good form this year. Maybe some opening comments about coming back to Ponte Vedra Beach for THE PLAYERS Championship.
IAN POULTER: Yeah, very much looking forward to this tournament after last year's runner-up position. You know, I've enjoyed playing this golf course. I think it sets up pretty nicely, a couple of par-5s which are very reachable for me and another couple of key par-5s which I can lay up to a good position. Some tough par-4s which I like, and I'm looking forward to getting going this week.
I've had five -- I guess I've had five weeks off with the Masters in between, so I'm fresh and ready to go. The knee is fit and healthy, and I'm looking forward to getting going.

Q. Just take us through how the knee happened. I know basketball, but doing what?
IAN POULTER: I was playing some basketball in the driveway. I put a hoop up for Luke. He had been asking me for a while, for about a year, if he could have a basketball hoop, and I kept saying no. So I put one up and we was playing, and a couple of friends from the street came over and we played for an hour, and I guess it was a little bit too much. The NBA players play for 48 minutes, and I'll play for over an hour. That's smart.

Q. Did you twist it?
IAN POULTER: I didn't, no, not at all. I didn't feel anything go. I didn't feel sore. But when I sat down and -- sat down to watch tele for a couple of hours and got up in the evening and walked up the stairs to give the kids a kiss goodnight, then I fell over walking up the stairs, so it sort of gave way.
There was fluid on the knee, and it was just too painful to put too much pressure on the left knee walking up the stairs.

Q. You must have been worried at first.
IAN POULTER: No, it's an old injury. The left knee for me is one that I've had problems with in the past, so I just thought I'd just done that same thing up. So I took some anti-inflammatories, lots of ice. So it was getting a little bit better, but went to New Orleans to see whether another day's rest would do. I played the Pro-Am, played nine holes, and it just wasn't right.

Q. What triggered the knee right back when you first had a problem with it?
IAN POULTER: I was playing tennis.

Q. Is the basketball court still there?
IAN POULTER: Yeah, the basketball court is still there, yeah. I can shoot but I can't jump.

Q. How long ago was it, the tennis?
IAN POULTER: Tennis would have been 18 months ago. Yeah, it was just excess, lunging or jumping or -- that day I played tennis for five hours.

Q. Who were you playing?
IAN POULTER: Who was I playing? I was playing Terry, my caddie.

Q. Were you able to practice fully again, though?
IAN POULTER: Yeah, I've been hitting balls real solid over the weekend, done a lot of good work over the weekend and feel very happy. Played nine holes yesterday, and it's good. I'm still putting an ice pack on it every nice just to keep the fluid away. But it'll be fine.

Q. Just some general thoughts on playing with Tiger.
IAN POULTER: Yeah, I played with him a number of times, Ryder Cup, played with him in Japan. It will be obviously very busy, great atmosphere, very much looking forward to it.

Q. How did you fare?
IAN POULTER: He beat me and Darren in the Ryder Cup with Chris Riley, and I can't remember what I shot in Japan. Not sure.

Q. Do you recall playing with him in America?
IAN POULTER: I don't think I have actually, no.

Q. Do you kind of play against him somewhere in the back of your mind?
IAN POULTER: Not in stroke play. I mean, you're playing 155 guys. You can't just look at one. Mentally I'll be going out there to shoot as low a round as I possibly can.
You know, do I pay that much attention to my playing partners? To be honest, no, I really don't. You know, I don't try and get engrossed into how they're swinging or how they're hitting it or whether they're 2-over, 5-under, 7-under. I'm just out there to do my job.
I mean, it's always handy when the group of players are 2-under, 4-under, 6-under, and you've got a good group going, but as far as anything else goes, no, I'm not really paying any attention.

Q. You correctly predicted Top 5 for him at the Masters. So how shocked were you by what happened last week, and what are you expecting of him this week?
IAN POULTER: Yeah, I think everybody was a little shocked last week. You can never write the No. 1 in the world off at any stage. You know, the discussion four weeks ago would have been how poor a season Mickelson had had to that point, which everybody was talking about, and you can see what great players in the world can do very quickly.
Mickelson has turned his year around very quickly. He found something in his swing on the range, and he goes out and wins the Masters. How impressive a last 18 holes he shot around there, and you can see what that's done to his year. And I would expect Tiger to be doing something very similar.
He needs two shots or an hour on the range to find a swing thought, which will get you through a week, and all of a sudden you're out there winning golf tournaments.
Whether it's Tiger Woods or Mickelson or any of those World No. 1 and 2 guys, they can turn it on quicker than anybody.

Q. You're known as a brisk player. If you were made commissioner for the day, what would you do to alleviate slow play?
IAN POULTER: I mean, the rules are set. You have 50 seconds to hit your shot, and if you set your man up, I guess you've got 40 seconds. I don't know, the penalties are pretty severe if you go over the ten times being put on the clock.
I mean, I wouldn't do anything. I think generally the speed of play is pretty good, and depends on the golf course, depends how tricky the weather is as to whether people get close to that 40 or 50-second mark.

Q. A process of failing something, a player kind of finds form. Have you been in that, and how does it work?
IAN POULTER: I'll simplify it. I mean, I wasn't happy with how I was hitting it two weeks ago. I felt my golf game was in shape Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of Augusta. I played great Thursday, Friday, and then hit a tee shot a little left off the 1st, which is really unusual for me.
And from that point I wasn't happy with the driver. Not that there's anything wrong with the driver, but I wasn't comfortable standing on the tee. And from that moment on, it starts playing in your mind. I go to the range last week, and I look on video at a number of things very closely, and I wasn't happy with a couple of segments.
I found something on camera, and within 15 minutes, I'm hitting the ball as good as I've ever hit it. I mean, it can be that quick. We all should be able to feel our own golf swings and understand our own golf swings, and it can literally be something -- for instance, my left heel was coming off the ground at the top of my backswing, so, therefore, I felt I was unstable. I couldn't then plant it and transfer my weight onto the left side properly, which can cause one or two shots. And by feeling that left heel on the ground for longer, I've got more height at the top of my backswing, I'm releasing the club better, and my whole golf swing feels better, feels more solid.
So it literally could be within three shots you can find something which takes you through a week or takes you through six months or the whole season.

Q. Being offered a Top 10 before coming in here you might have taken it. Finishing second here, your form at the moment, you usually play well fresh and you're coming in fresh. Does Top 10 sound good to you now?
IAN POULTER: I wouldn't have taken that ten years ago.

Q. What sort of expectations do you have?
IAN POULTER: I'm here to win. It's as simple as that. Every week -- I mean, if you asked me that question every single week of the year, I'm going to give you the same answer. I'm playing to win. I mean, I'm not going to be happy to take anything other than a win.
If I finish second, I'm going to be disappointed this week. I mean, that's as simple as that. I'm here to win golf tournaments. Yes, I finished runner-up last year, but I want to win golf tournaments. I feel my game is good enough to win golf tournaments. And I should feel disappointed if I walk away without winning if I've played well.

Q. Tiger was making reference yesterday to video equipment, to just golf equipment in general and technology as a reason why so many young players are so good now. When you look at the wave of players now, whether we're talking about Anthony Kim or Rory or Matteo making his debut this week. Do you see the wave as being any bigger than it's been in the past or is this just a continuation of the same old theme that's been going on for a while?
IAN POULTER: No, you just named three names that are probably the great prospects in golf. Rory, everybody has been talking about Rory for a number of years, and there's been a lot of pressure on his shoulders. He's finally won a golf tournament over here, which people would have expected a little bit sooner because he's that good.
Anthony Kim is that good. He swings it great. He's very naturally talented. And every now and then you get a crop of players which are that good at their game so early, it's no surprise to many people.
But technology, you know, technology has got a small part to play. I mean, obviously people are hitting it a little bit longer and a little bit straighter. I don't think that's a factor why the young kids have come through any quicker. There are some great players in golf right now.

Q. Is this a course you liked immediately? Did you learn to like it? And what brought out your best last year?
IAN POULTER: I learned to like it on Play Station, actually, before I got here. I've played it enough. So yeah, the island green, I've probably played more rounds of it on Play Station as a kid than I ever have now.
I like the golf course. It's a tough golf course. It's always set up that way, and it's meant to be that way. This is supposed to be the fifth major, and I like the way the golf course sets up. It's difficult. There's tough par-4s, there's challenging par-3s, and there's some par-5s which are all reachable.

Q. Where would you rate this in the courses you play week in and week out?
IAN POULTER: This course? I would rate it in the Top 5 for sure. I think there's a couple of par-5s that are wrong for me is definitely a huge help. The other par-5s are very risk-reward par-5s in terms of, if you want to have a go at it in two, you're probably going to have 285 yards, I'm probably not going to get there anyway so I'll put in a good number for myself.
My statistics show that I play tough par-4s very well, so I like this golf course. It's definitely one that I've played well.

Q. I'm kind of intrigued by the Play Station. Do you just have fun playing --
IAN POULTER: I don't play anymore, but I'm just saying as a kid, I mean, hours in a pro shop.

Q. Did you learn something by playing that translated, that helps you understand this course?
IAN POULTER: Well, I've gotten to know the golf course pretty quickly. When you set it up, you always set it up to play the back nine, I guess, with the island green.
You know, I hadn't played a round of golf in America until I was 20, so, you know, as a kid and spending a lot of time in a pro shop playing Play Station, yeah, I guess I got to know the golf course.

Q. If you had to guess, how many times?
IAN POULTER: Hundreds. Hundreds and hundreds, yeah.

Q. When you stood on the tee at 17, did it almost feel familiar to you?
IAN POULTER: Oh, that green was enormous. (Laughter.) I've made birdie there all the time on the computer.

Q. That's what I mean. Was it that easy?
IAN POULTER: You know, it is an easy hole to be honest. I mean, it's 125 yards, it's 130 yards. It shouldn't be that difficult, but we all make it difficult because there's 15,000 fans and people want to see balls go in the water, and there's a lot of pressure.
It becomes a difficult hole, but it really shouldn't be. You aren't hitting any more than -- if the weather is okay, you're not hitting any more than 9-iron, so you really should be able to hit a green with a 9-iron. But we all know what that hole does to you mid-round. I mean, it's a good hole. It's a clever hole.

Q. What's your record?
IAN POULTER: I've had a good record on it. I don't know score for score, but I'm pretty good on that hole. Or I have been pretty good on that hole for sure.

Q. Your best score on Play Station?
IAN POULTER: Oh, 50-something, like a Ryo Ishikawa. He's done it for real. That's a good score.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Ian Poulter, best of luck this week.

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