Ian Poulter hit his first shot at St Andrews out of bounds yesterday, but still backed himself to win the Open Championship.
Fortunately for Poulter, his errant shot came as he took on some youngsters at Tri-Golf before receiving the Golf Foundation’s ’Spirit of Golf’ award in recognition of his contribution to the game and fundraising efforts.
The 34-year-old also took questions from his young opponents, and when asked if he would be lifting the Claret Jug come Sunday evening, simply said: “Yes.”
Poulter, who finished second behind Padraig Harrington at Birkdale two years ago, later said: “I just like this course. I feel my game is in shape and I just want to get going.
“I have great memories of it, my first Open was here in 2000. I qualified at Ladybank, I’d never been to St Andrews or played links golf. I remember parking on the side of the road and walking on to the 17th green and I was like, ’What is this?’.
“The greens didn’t look like greens to me, they looked like short fairway. It’s just an amazing place and I love coming here. The course is fantastic, very very good, as green as I’ve ever seen it but still running.”
The Old Course has been extended by a total of 45 yards since last staging the Open in 2005, with 40 of those yards added to the famous ’Road Hole’ 17th.
A new tee forces the players to flirt with danger over the corner of the Old Course Hotel, with the par four now measuring a daunting 495 yards.
“I played it on Thursday and Friday and one day I hit it in the left rough and couldn’t get to the green, had to chop it out,” Poulter added. “The next day I hit it in the fairway and went in with five iron.
“But I can’t see many people honestly taking on the green itself. I’m quite happy to hit it on the very very front of that green and I’ll putt from there. I’ll take my chances from 60, 70 or 80 feet.
“And if it’s into the wind, aiming towards the second fairway is not a bad option off the tee, go way left.”
Poulter has been grouped with defending champion Stewart Cink and 2002 winner Ernie Els in the opening two rounds, teeing off at 8:42am on Thursday.