Ian Poulter returns to European Tour action for the first time in eight months this week at the Australian PGA Championship and is hoping happy memories of his previous visits Down Under can spur him on.
The Englishman played just two individual European Tour events last season and missed out on playing in the Ryder Cup after he had to shut down in the summer to fix a long-standing foot problem.
That involved going 11 weeks without so much as hitting a ball but the 12-time winner is now fully fit as he begins the season in a country where he won the Australian Masters in 2011 and finished second the following year.
"It’s very exciting to come back to Australia," he said at RACV Royal Pines Resort. "I feel fresh, I feel ready, even though it was a long flight. I’m quite excited to come down here to play golf.
"The foot’s good. I had to take five months off in the summer, which was pretty frustrating. To take myself out of trying to qualify for a Ryder Cup place, that was pretty hard to take because I obviously love that event so much.
"But a rest was needed to get the rehab done and to come back strong at the back end of this year, and after this week and next in Hong Kong we’ll reassess and see where we’re going to start next year."
Poulter has played four events on the US PGA Tour in recent weeks and while he believes he is physically ready for golf, he knows it will take a while to fully get back in the swing of things.
I feel fresh, I feel ready. I’m quite excited to come down here to play golf - Ian Poulter
“When you take a big chunk of time off, it’s hard mentally to get back in the frame of mind of playing competitive golf all the time," he said.
"As nice as it was to take chunks of time off, I haven’t ever been in that type of position before.
"I was talking to someone today to try and work out when the last time was that I hadn’t hit a ball for 11 weeks, and I can’t ever remember – even as a kid – taking that length of time away from the game.
"It was a nice break but the difficulty will come from being under pressure to hole putts at the right time.
“You can prepare hitting golf balls, you can play practice rounds, you can get yourself ready in terms of being conditioned to play, but there’s nothing like being under pressure and actually having to do it for real.
"So it’s about managing those expectations when you come back to play.”
Poulter may have turned 40 at the start of this year but with five winners in their 40s last season - including an Open Championship victory for Henrik Stenson - he is confident he has plenty left in the tank.
"I think expectations in the 40s is trying to stay fit and healthy," he said
"For me, it’s to balance the schedule, try and play in small blocks, try and manage to practice and try and really come back when you’re ready to play as strong as possible.
"There have been a lot of golfers that have played exceptionally well, Darren Clarke won the Open at 40-something, obviously Vijay Singh, continues to be strong, Miguel Angel Jiménez constantly winning golf tournaments, so there’s a lot of guys that continue to play good golf in their 40s.
"It’s about managing your schedule, being careful and making sure you’re able to play."
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