Ian Poulter and Justin Rose (Getty Images)
Ian Poulter and Justin Rose hope to turn their impressive team record at Mission Hills into individual success at this week’s WGC – HSBC Champions.
The Ryder Cup teammates have twice represented England together in the Omega Mission Hills World Cup, finishing fourth in 2007 and second in 2011.
However, both will be competing for a second World Golf Championship title this week and Poulter’s pre-tournament press conference had an unusual first question from his compatriot who was on his way out of the interview room as Poulter’s press conference began.
Rose asked: “How can I beat you this week? Because you're looking like you're buoyant at the moment.”
Poulter responded: “Well, you hit it past me. You've got me covered off the tee. You've nearly got me covered in greens in regulation, because you're like 99.9998 per cent greens in regulation. So just warm the blade up, buddy.”
Once that friendly exchange was out the way, Poulter admitted his experience of the venue – he has also partnered Ross Fisher here twice – could be a significant advantage.
“I’ve played here a number of times in World Cup format,” he said. “I think the course is one which opens itself up to quite a few birdies, five par fives, it's going to be an exciting week to play in a stroke-play event as opposed to knowing the course as a foursomes and a fourball course.
“I think the scores are going to be pretty low and you're going to have to play well. It's a strong field, a lot of guys in decent form, so expecting to score low.”
And while Poulter has received plenty of adulation for his Ryder Cup heroics, the former WGC-Accenture Match Play Champion is keen to win an individual title before the end of 2012.
“I'm fairly motivated to put a ‘W’ on the board before the end of the year,” he added. “I felt last week I was really frustrated after three days. Felt that my ball-striking was as good as it's been all year. I put myself in a lot of positions where I felt I should have converted to make birdie.
“I had in two consecutive days, probably 12 putts each day under 15 feet for birdie and barely converted them. As hot as my putter was last time out, it went cold for a few days early in the week. I was getting frustrated but I knew if I could hole a few I could get a result. The result was there on Sunday: seven birdies, no mistakes.
“Fourth position was acceptable; I wouldn't say it was a great week but I would have said it was acceptable for how I played, and if I do the same this week and putt well, then I'm definitely going to be there again. I would like to add a win to the resumé this year and sign off in a good way.”
Rose’s sixth place finish in Shanghai last week represented an incredible eighth top-ten finish in 11 European Tour starts this year; but with Peter Hanson winning and Rory McIlroy second he lost ground in The Race to Dubai.
“This is a big week to be honest with you,” said the 32 year old. “It's my last event going into Dubai.
“I lost a little bit of ground on the guys last week. Peter Hanson obviously got ahead of me, too, in terms of The Race to Dubai.
“To give myself a chance - that's the goal this week really is to give myself a chance going into Dubai - and I guess that would mean putting myself within the difference between first and second; knowing that if I win, and Rory finishes second at the Tour Championship, I can still win The Race to Dubai. But also I'm in Rory's hands to a certain extent and I have to win this week to give myself that chance.
“From The Race to Dubai perspective, to keep that interesting, it's a very important week this week.”