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MASTERS TOURNAMENT


April 9, 2013


Ian Poulter


AUGUSTA, GEORGIA

THE MODERATOR:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  It's my pleasure to welcome to the interview room Ian Poulter.  Ian is joining us this week for his ninth Masters appearance.  His 7th place finish at Augusta National last year was a career best, and he was one of only five players in the field to finish all four rounds at par or better.
Before we open up to questions, Ian, would you please tell us how you feel about your game coming into the Masters?
IAN POULTER:  Sure.  I feel very good about my game right now.  Played five events since the start of the year, and played last week, something slightly different.  I've never played the week before the Masters.  I've always had a couple of weeks off.  But I wanted to kind of get another tournament in before coming here so I could be match sharp.  And although I didn't finish the week off well last week, I feel that I'm ready this week.
I've hit the right shots in practice.  I feel that how I've looked at the golf course in terms of statistics, how I've played the course the number of years I have, I generally play it pretty well.  You know, I'm kind of fired up to play well again this year and try and slip one of those jackets on come Sunday.

Q.  Have you thought about the majors in terms of which one you would more like to win against another?
IAN POULTER:  I've looked at my stats and I always do every year and I always do at many tournaments.  Again, looking at those stats, I think this is my best chance.
So there's a number of key holes for me out there on the golf course.  Some years I've played them well.  Some years I haven't played them well.  You know, I need to take care of the par 5s.  I think most guys that have played very well around this golf course have played the par 5s exceptionally well.  It's not a big secret, so you need to play the par3s solid, but you need to take care of those 5s.  They are all reachable.  Even 8 was comfortably reachable today.
When it's playing like that, you need to be making birdies and even try to take a couple of eagles out of the course, and if you can do that, then you have a chance.

Q.  (Inaudible) or is that something you've added?
IAN POULTER:¬† I've got more and more into the stats, I think, on the PGA TOUR since they have been doing ShotLink.¬† We have the opportunity to go in and have a look at every single statistic, and we can analyze our game week‑by‑week and we can see areas of the game which need work and what areas don't.¬† So I think most guys dive into the stats pretty hard now.

Q.  Is it possible for you to get as fired up here than at The Ryder Cup, and is this a course that suits well somebody that would get fired up?
IAN POULTER:  No is the simple answer.  I've answered that a hundred times.  You've got two sets of fans, and here you've got fans that are wishing 92 players play well.
It's very difficult to get that same atmosphere, recreate it.  It just won't happen.  But what will happen is on Sunday afternoon, when you're coming down the stretch, you will be feeling the same kind of emotions, albeit the crowds might not be quite as loud, but they will be respectful of good golf shots, and obviously the birdies that happen here on a Sunday.
So I think there will be some good vibes hopefully going through me with nine holes to play and hopefully I can pull upon those Ryder Cup moments and hopefully bring me through.

Q.  As to the level of difficulty of the course, if you get fired up, is it because you need to be calmer because of all the treacherous ways to go around here?
IAN POULTER:  I think there's certain pin locations which you can be aggressive to, and I think there's other pin locations which you've got to be very careful.
Sunday afternoon, as we know, you can be within five of the lead and that back nine on Sunday generally plays‑‑ it plays into the hands of someone that's going to be aggressive.¬† And we've seen it before, a run of birdies.¬† Schwartzel made five in a row or four in a row, and Mickelson has made eagles.¬† There's so much drama on this back nine come Sunday, it just seems that some of the pins become accessible, and it's a fun afternoon.

Q.  There's been a bit of a drought for the Europeans, José Maria the last guy to win here; why do you think that is, first of all, any rhyme or reason to that, especially given the success of the Europeans the last few years?
IAN POULTER:  There's no real reason to it.  We just haven't performed very well, simple.  We haven't performed well enough.  And I think the guys are disappointed, to be honest, that one of the guys would have expected to have come through by now.  What's the reason for that?  Don't know.  Tiger's taken a few, Phil has taken a few.  They are pretty good, those two.

Q.  You mentioned a number of key holes.  Can you expand on that?  Which ones and why sort of best suit your eye.
IAN POULTER:  Obviously the four key holes are the 5s.  I think when you look at the numbers that are posted on this golf course, generally the birdie conversion on the 5s are much better than any other hole on the golf course.  So you know, you have to then look at the other holes on the golf course.  I mean, you've got the holes that I think are difficult holes and holes that I play or in the past have played not as well as I would have liked to.
Those holes for me personally are at 5 and 7; 1, 5, and 7 for me are pretty key.  If I can get through those holes, then I feel like this golf course can open up.
There's a few holes around that front nine which you've just got to be careful, especially with a couple of pin locations.  6, back right pin location.  I mean, that green itself is very, very small and it's easy to make a mistake there.  But yet all of a sudden that pin location goes front left, and all of a sudden that green's ten times the size, and it's a great birdie opportunity.
So given the pin locations on certain days, certain holes turn from easy holes into tough holes, and I'm just conscious of the holes that I've played well and I've played poorly, and I need to make a conscious effort to play those good holes well and play smart on those difficult holes.

Q.  That chest infection you picked up, not the first time you've been laid low before the majors; how bad was it, and any onward effect?
IAN POULTER:  It was frustrating.  I had a few days off not hitting any balls.  I've still got something there, albeit I don't sound 100 percent, but I feel fine.  Just the allergies this week kind of are pretty good.  We all know how much pollen you get around this place.  And when you're allergic to grass and trees and pine, it's a pretty good place to come and play golf (laughter).
So I'm taking every tablet, nose spray, eye drops, the lot.

Q.  You said, I forget now, whether it was at Medinah whether it was in Dubai or whether it was in Turkey, but you said that you expected when you came out this year, you would have a target on your back and they would all be aiming at you; have you found that to be true?
IAN POULTER:  Not really, no.  You know, I think what happened last September personally for me was a big week and was a big week for European golf.  It was a huge turnaround.
But I mean, the guys have been pretty friendly, so, yeah, it's been fine (smiling).

Q.  There's been an obvious change in the course setup in recent years to promote better scoring, and particularly on Sunday afternoon, the back nine.  Does that suit an aggressive player like you?
IAN POULTER:  I would hope so.  I mean, you know, this golf course always gave up birdies on a Sunday afternoon.  And there was a spell there for a couple of years where I think the golf course was exceptionally difficult and the roars weren't there.  But it's back and been back now for a good few years.  It does give up birdies to someone that's prepared to take on some of those pin locations.  We have seen it from a number of players in the last few years that prepared to take on shots and whether that be it 12, 13, 14, 15, 16; I mean, it rewards good golf shots, and the winners generally have played the back nine pretty well.

Q.  Would you prefer to see it that way?
IAN POULTER:  Would I prefer to see it that way?  Yes, I do.

Q.  There's a number of players out here who kind of wish Steve Stricker kept his opinions to himself when Tiger asked for some advice, and maybe more serious why are golfers so free with their advice to others, to a competitor, when that may end up getting you beat somewhere down the road?
IAN POULTER:  Well pretty much because we are all friends.  We spend 25 weeks a year on the road with the same guys, and we spend a lot of time together.  And for the most part, we try and help each other out.
You know, sometimes you get little tips just playing with somebody, and sometimes that person might even lend a bit more of a hand and sort your putting out.
Definitely the advice, whatever Steve said to Tiger, has definitely worked.  I think his putting stats the last few weeks have been pretty incredible, 38 percent conversion from 15 to 25 feet.  That's pretty good.  You're going to win every week if you do that.

Q.  We hear a lot from you guys that you can only take care of your own game and that's what you really have to worry about, but is there a point during a tournament, be it Saturday night or Sunday on the back nine when you become more aware of who is around you, what your position is, and you have to balance taking care of your own game with what's going on in the tournament?
IAN POULTER:  I think I've been in position here a couple of times.  A few years ago I was leading after two days.  You can't get too engrossed into that leaderboard.  We know on Sunday that you can catch up a lead if you're a few behind.  It's about being in position.  It's easy to take yourself out of this golf tournament, but a lot of winners have just been very, very steady.
You know, again, it goes back to the numbers and stats and how you look at certain holes on this golf course.  But you know, if you do play them smart and if you do play them the right way, you know, by Sunday, providing you've taken your chances and the chances on the 5s then you should be in a position to have a go around that back nine.

Q.  You mentioned at the end of last year, particularly after The Ryder Cup, that you were looking over the winter to just make a couple of adjustments, improvements in elements of your game; have you been able to do that?
IAN POULTER:  I have.  I'm definitely longer off the tee.  I think I'm 15 yards longer off the tee which is helpful for these 5s.
The shaft option I've changed has given me a higher ball flight, which is great when it's not windy.¬† But a couple of the tournaments I've played this year, I've found that my visual‑‑ because the ball flight has changed, I see my knock‑down shots very different, and that's taken some adjusting to.
But the pluses are so much better than the negatives, and I feel, you know, with those changes that I should be more equipped certainly coming in here this week.  You need to stop the ball quickly on these greens to certain pins and you need to hit it pretty long off the tee.  So I've kind of done both things that I was looking for in the winter.

Q.  When you arrive here as you say at the week, which you think gives you your best chance of a major victory, is that hundred percent inspirational, or does it carry a degree of anxiety, as well?
IAN POULTER:  There's no anxiety.  Pressure's fine.  I know this week is probably my best chance, so I just need to go out there and perform.
I don't have sleepless nights over it.  The fact is, I just need to go and play well.  And if I do play well, then you know, put myself in position, then hopefully I can take it with both hands come Sunday.

Q.  And if it was a sleepless night, it would be through excitement more than anything else?
IAN POULTER:  Yeah, it be would through excitement, and I think I'll be able to play on no sleep come Sunday if I had to.

Q.  Can you just expand on the specific difficulties of 4 and 5, please.
IAN POULTER:¬† Sure.¬† Well, 4, it's been a long par 3, and that's simple.¬† You're going to go in there with either a 2‑iron hybrid to the back pin if it's into the wind.¬† You could be going anything, yeah, from a 2‑iron, 3‑iron, 4‑iron.¬† The front left pin location is a tiny portion of green, and sometimes that left bunker is a better spot than even 40 feet above that hole.¬† The two back right pin locations, you get there, again, you can't go long, and you don't really want to be coming up short in that bunker.¬† So it's been a long par 3, which generally plays into the wind.¬† You can get a wind switch, like you can on 12, and you can find yourself through the back of that green or coming up short very, very easy.¬† So you know, a 3 is a very good score on that 4th.
On the 5th, it's not really the tee shot that's difficult; it's your second shot.¬† I think the real area on that green is probably 15 feet by 15 feet is where you're really aiming.¬† That's really in the middle of that green.¬† If you hit that position, you've got a birdie putt from inside 30 feet to every pin location.¬† It's just very difficult to fly it‑‑ you have to fly it 20 yards on that green, and you have to stop it within 30 feet, really, before it drops in that back bunker.¬† So it's a difficult target.¬† Again, it's easy to get the wind wrong on that hole.¬† It often plays downwind off the tee and then you stand in the middle of that fairway and it's straight into.
So they are the things that a caddie nightmares this week.  It's the wind switch that you get all around this golf course.  It funnels throughout the trees.

Q.  You mentioned your best chance to win a major is here.  Curious about what is your sort of typical preparation coming into this event, and have you changed that at all this year, aside from adding San Antonio, maybe if you can just talk a little bit about that.
IAN POULTER:¬† Yeah, I try and visualize the shots that I'm going to be hitting on the golf course.¬† Second shot on 8, a very steep uphill lie with 3‑wood.¬† I practiced that at Lake Nona.
The other areas that I practice are second shots like we are going to get into 13.¬† So everything from 5‑iron all the way through to a 5‑wood with ball above your feet.
I find the second shot into 9 is a tricky shot.  Often it's easy to get caught halfway down one of those little ridges.  You have to get the ball up very quickly, so I practice those shots.
And you know, that's really what I would do and what I have done over the last few years apart from adding San Antonio, so I've done that work before I even went to San Antonio.

Q.  Had you done anything differently through the years, and by that, I mean altered maybe how many holes you play around that you play in preparation here, practice rounds or has it been pretty much the same?
IAN POULTER:¬† I think I play less each year really.¬† Practice rounds take a long time because you're always chipping from different angles around the green and putting to various pins.¬† You find that nine holes is a three‑hour process.¬† So if you're prepared to go out there and play 18, that's going to be a long day.
I think for myself, I like to play nine holes and look at all the options that I'm going to get during the week, and spend a lot of time out there on the range hitting the shots that I feel I could be getting.

Q.¬† Obviously conditions might dictate the answer to this, but is there one shot you find to be the most angst‑producing?
IAN POULTER:¬† I don't think there's one; there's a few.¬† 13, ball above your feet, it's an unusual slope to be on, and it's a small target down there.¬† It is very, very easy‑‑ the reason it's so difficult is it's easy to turn it over with the ball above your feet, and it's also easy to correct that and hit it slightly right, or neither of those two shots on that hole are any good.¬† So it's pretty difficult.
I think the other shot for me personally would be second shot into nine.  As I said, ball is below your feet and you're on a downslope.  It's not an easy shot when that green is perched up way above that fairway, and you need to get it to stop.  There's definitely a few.  There's not just one.

Q.  Taking a look at the European question, even bringing it down just back to your country itself, there are four of you ranked in the top 13 I think this week.  Is it surprising that you or Justin or Lee or Luke, who have all contended here at this place, just don't have one or two of these green jackets?
IAN POULTER:  Yes, simple.  (Nodding).
THE MODERATOR:  Ian, thank you for your time here today with us and we wish you the very best this week.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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