Ian Poulter knows he will need to be on his A-game if he is to have a chance of winning the US PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club this week.
As the pre-tournament talk focuses on the thickness of the rough, the narrowness of the fairways and the small greens, Poulter hopes his accuracy off the tee and typically tidy short game will stand him in good stead to break his Major Championship duck.
The 37 year old has been in contention a number of times in recent Majors – a final-round charge at The Open Championship last month left him tied third – and this week’s venue, a course he admits suits his eye, could play into his hands.
“I really need to be on my A-game to make sure that I put it in position off the tee,” said Poulter, whose last victory came in the WGC-HSBC Champions last November. “My driving stats are pretty good. I'd like to lean on that as hard as I can this week, get it in play, and try to take my opportunities when I can.
“I like the setup. I like the fact that you don't have to hit driver off every single tee. There’s a lot of positional play. The greens are very small.
“I think the rough around the greens might not favour the best chippers, because it's very thick and very lush. It evens the field a little bit if guys are going to miss greens. I'm very much looking forward to trying to put some red numbers on the board.
“Distance control is absolutely key to making sure you're on the right spot of the greens, or even actually hitting some of these greens, to have any chance of making birdies. It's going to be a good challenge. Not many guys have ever finished under par around this golf course, so you've got to play very smart golf.”
Poulter’s friend and compatriot Lee Westwood is another player looking to win his first Major, having also come close numerous times in recent times.
In the last five years he has notched an impressive 11 top ten finishes, two of which have been the runner-up spot and a further six times he has been in the top three.
“Since 2008, I feel like I've contended every time I come to a Major Championship,” said the 40 year old. “No matter what level my game is at, I can operate for that week, and I feel like that's why I've probably contended in most of them.”
Westwood has made a number of changes to his coaching team of late, enlisting Sean Foley, who also coaches Tiger Woods and Justin Rose, as a swing coach, tapping up Ian Baker-Finch for his short-game knowledge and consulting a new psychologist.
Significant improvements were evident at Muirfield, but that was followed with a not-so-spectacular 40th place in last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
“I think the main reason for finishing third at The Open Championship was that I putted so well,” he said. “That's the first time I've putted well in I don't know how long. It seems to be what everybody else does every week, so that's a level of consistency I've got to try to get to on the greens.
“I've been making a lot of changes and working on a lot of different things, so there's no surprise really that there was a significant difference between The Open and last week. Until changes take effect, you're going to be a little bit inconsistent.”