Ian Poulter will attempt to take his tally of European Tour International Schedule victories into double figures this week when he defends his Barclays Singapore Open title.
Twelve months ago the 34 year old Englishman claimed win number eight when he took the title at the Sentosa Golf Club and captured his ninth victory in February of this year with his first World Golf Championship success, beating Paul Casey in the final to win the WGC Accenture Match Play in Arizona.
Now the man, who together with Luke Donald was the top points scorer for Europe in last month’s Ryder Cup triumph at The Celtic Manor Resort, is looking to make it a perfect ten and the Arsenal FC fan admitted he was gunning for more glory after his top 15 finish in last week’s WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
“It is always nice to go back to a tournament venue where you have won and obviously Sentosa is that for me,” he said. “I love the Serapong Course, where three of the four rounds will be played. It’s tricky and testing off the tee and therefore positional play is the key to a good score. But I think that plays to my strengths as I showed last year and I’m very happy with my game at the moment.”
Last year’s tournament, the first time the event appeared on The European Tour International Schedule, was played over only one course but this year the field is increased from 156 to 204 players who will all play a round each over the Serapong Course and the Tanjong Course on Thursday and Friday before the final two rounds are contested solely on the Serapong Course at the weekend.
As well as conquering two demanding golf courses, all the competitors will have to find a way of coping with searing heat and humidity which is prevalent in the region at this time of year.
“You have to conserve energy, it’s as simple as that,” said Poulter. “It’s tough to perform on consecutive days in that heat. Come Sunday you will be tired so you have to make sure you hydrate properly and also make sure you are wearing light coloured clothing, all those sorts of things.”
With an additional US$1 million having been added to the prize fund for this year bringing the total to US$6 million, the tournament will obviously play a pivotal role in The Race to Dubai, not only at the top end but also for those still vying to get into the top 60 to book themselves a place in the Dubai World Championship presented by: DP World at the end of the month.
However, the majority of the attention will focus on the players who currently occupy first and second place; Germany’s Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland. The duo finished only one shot apart in China – Kaymer tieing for 30th place while McDowell finished tied 34th – to see the German marginally extend his advantage to €531,806. With a first prize of €713,165 available in Singapore, it is very much still game on at the top.
Other European Tour stars will be on show, including Italy’s Francesco Molinari who held off the challenge of World Number One Lee Westwood over all four days in China to claim the WGC-HSBC Champions title and in the process move up to fourth on The Race to Dubai.
Also in action will be the cream of Asian talent, in what will be the fifth of six co-sanctioned events with the Asian Tour in 2010, as well as World Number Four Phil Mickelson, who finished in a tie for 14th place last year, six shots behind Poulter. The left handed American will be looking for his third title on Asian soil to add to his two WGC-HSBC Champions wins.
Sentosa Golf Club, which was opened in 1974 by Singapore’s then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, will play host to the event for the sixth time. The tournament, a long-standing event in the region since 1961, was not played between 2002 and 2004, but returned to the Asian Tour schedule in 2005. Barclays support as title sponsor was secured from 2006 and last year it became a co-sanctioned event with The European Tour for the first time.