Poulter extended his bogey-free streak to 45 straight holes and is in position to win for the second time in three weeks after a third-round 67 on Saturday. This, despite the fact that he’s playing for the sixth week in a row and normally spends no more than three straight weeks on the road.
“I’m surprised I’m still awake, to be honest,” Poulter said. “Six weeks in a row. Normally after three I’m begging for a week off. … My dad said I’ve never had so much sleep before.”
Luke List (67) and Si Woo Kim (68) will join Poulter in the final threesome Sunday at 9 a.m. Tee times have been moved up, and players will go off of split tees in order to get done around 2 p.m. ET and potentially ahead of the anticipated thunderstorms.
Poulter has not made a bogey since the 10th hole of the first round, and he is only two weeks removed from his resounding victory at the Houston Open, where at one point he played 49 holes without a bogey on the way to his third PGA TOUR win. His recent consistency notwithstanding, few careers have seen more ups and downs than Poulter’s over the last year and a half.
“There’s been quite a lot of lows in the last 18 months,” he said.
Lows, as in his lowest ranking: 207th after The Honda Classic last season. (He’s back up to 31st.) Lows, as in thinking he’d lost his TOUR card after missing the cut at the Valero Texas Open last season, when it appeared that he had not fulfilled the terms of his Major Medical Extension from a 2016 foot injury. (As it turned out, the math was wrong. He had done enough, after all.)
A T2 finish at THE PLAYERS Championship secured Poulter’s TOUR status for 2018, and he has kicked his game into another gear this season. After going back to the putter he used to spark Europe’s comeback at the 2012 Ryder Cup, Poulter finished T5 at the World Golf Championship-Dell Technology Match Play. He won the Houston Open a week later, earning him an eleventh-hour invitation to the Masters. Now he’s fighting through fatigue and conjuring up some of his best golf.
“I needed something to change on the greens,” he said of the Medinah putter, with which he has ranked seventh in strokes gained: putting this week. “Going back to something that I couldn’t blame, with a putter that you know has done some great things in the past, there’s no excuses.”
HORSCHEL TURNS CORNER. Billy Horschel had missed five of his last six cuts and came into this week ranked 160th in the FedExCup. He will play in the second to last group on Sunday after shooting a third-round 67 to get to within two of the lead. The big difference: While he came into the week ranked 119th in strokes gained: putting, Horschel is second in that stat this week. “This course suits me well,” said Horschel, who tied for ninth here in his first RBC, in 2013. “I’m striking it well, putting well and thinking well.” That last part, the mental side, has perhaps been holding him back, he said. “It’s a little bit more of a mental thing with me right now,” said the four-time TOUR winner and 2014 FedExCup champion. “So I need to get back to the way I was thinking my entire career, especially ’13 and ’14.”
KISNER TRIES TO FORGET 2017. Kevin Kisner was in position to close out a victory at the RBC Heritage a year ago, but he bogeyed four of his last eight holes for a 74 and a T11 finish. Now he’s back to try again. He shot a third-round 66, tied for the best of the day, to get to 10-under and within three shots of the lead. “Last year was pretty pitiful on the back nine Sunday,” said Kisner, a two-time TOUR winner who finished second at the recent World Golf Championship-Dell Technologies Match Play, and who came into this week 30th in the FedExCup. “So I’m going to try to make amends with it and do a little better on the back nine. I feel comfortable. I’m swinging great and I’ve got a lot of confidence, so I’m looking forward to it.”
S.W. KIM OVERCOMES NERVES. It was a long wait before Si Woo Kim started his round in the last twosome with then-leader Bryson DeChambeau. So long, in fact, that Kim was surprised to realize he felt nervous. “I was a little disappointed because I was nervous on the first few holes,” said Kim (68, one back), who will defend his title at THE PLAYERS Championship next month. “…Having a really late tee time today, I felt that was a big waiting period for me. So my body needed to adjust to that.” A day after taking just 23 putts and shooting a 65 with a triple-bogey, Kim said he felt slightly less sharp on the greens (27 putts). Still, he is fourth in the field in strokes gained: putting (+5.762) for the week.
Cameron Morfit on the PGA TOUR website