As darkness descended over TPC Sawgrass, Ian Poulter knew the horn was going to blow soon and wanted to avoid a 5:30am wake-up call. If one player tees off, then the group is allowed to finish the hole. So, Poulter did what every logical golfer would have done (and does) — he jogged to 17 green, pulled out the pin himself and two-putted. Then he grabbed his driver and 3-wood and ran to the 18th tee. Phil Mickelson and Martin Laird had just teed off, but they quickly cleared the way when they realized Poulter was trying to finish.
“A 300-yard sprint was well worth four hours in bed,” said Poulter.
On the 16th tee Mickelson gave Poulter and his playing partner Dustin Johnson the thumbs-up to hit.
“Phil was waiting and just came over and said to us, ‘Listen, if you have to tee off, just give us a shout. So I think quite a few guys in that situation would have done exactly the same,” explained Poulter, who ended up shooting two-over 74.
Apparently some people, including NBC’s Johnny Miller, felt Poulter’s actions were disrespectful, saying he needed an etiquette lesson. I was watching from the jumbotron on 18 and didn’t understand what the fuss was all about since it was pretty standard procedure. At Doral in March Rory Sabbatini was the designated sprinter in his group and I recall his playing partners Zach Johnson and Geoff Ogilvy were thankful. In fact, Ogilvy called the move “sensible.”
After the boost of adrenaline, Poulter ripped his driver down the fairway — probably his longest ever on that hole.
“That was pumped,” he said. “That thing was out there. I don’t think I’ve ever hit sand iron into 18 before. So there’s something to be said about adrenaline.”
The horn blew while Poulter was on 18, but he and Johnson happily finished the hole. While Poulter and DJ didn’t specifically discuss which one of them would run for tee, the group knew they were going to be cutting it close and discussed it throughout the round.
Joked Poulter, “It was probably about the same as your heart rate is when you’re playing the Ryder Cup so it was just taking you back a few months.”
And what does Dustin owe Poulter for saving him four hours and early morning wake-up call?
“A beer,” he said.
*Update, Saturday, 10:00pm: Color-me-eight-shades-of-not-so-shocked that Poulter went on Twitter and fired back at his critics, including Miller (whose comments were mild, I’m told). “Muppets!”
**Update 2, Saturday, 11:59pm: Kevin Streelman’s caddie Mike Christenson wrote on Twitter: “Earlier this year a player hit wedge off 9th tee at Riviera (par 4) because group ahead didn’t see him on tee. Taking one for the team!” I tried to call Mikey for more details, but he could not be reached at the time this was posted because he has to wake up at at 5am.
(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)