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Ian Poulter posts strong opening round at U.S. Open

Ian Poulter waves to the crowd on the

Ian Poulter waves to the crowd on the 18th hole during the first round of the 2018 U.S. Open at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton on Thursday. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

It’s a bit early to be talking about the Ryder Cup in September, but a stalwart of Europe’s Ryder Cup teams is making his case to make the team this year, and making a case to win his first major.

Ian Poulter, conquering a certain angst he has over U.S. Open courses, shot a 69 in his opening round on Thursday at Shinnecock and finds himself in contention.

“Patience is everything, especially this week and especially any U.S. Open,” said Poulter. “Every one of the U.S. Opens I’ve played in the past, you know . . . I’ve been disappointed. I’ve been angry. I’ve been frustrated.”

It’s fair to say the Poulter was extremely frustrated when he had to sit out the 2016 Ryder Cup with a painful arthritic joint in his right foot. His record is extraordinary in the biennial event that he’s played in five times with Europe winning four of those. He has 12 match wins, four losses and two halves.

He sat out the end of the 2016, and having played poorly during the season, his PGA Tour status for 2017 was in jeopardy. He was on a major medical extension for 2017, as was Brian Gay. But Gay and his wife figured out that the Tour’s alteration of the FedEx Cup points system used to calculate if a player retains his card was unfair to those on medical extensions. When Gay appealed and kept his card, Poulter got to keep his as well.

He’s made the most of it, finally winning again this season at Houston, and climbing up the European Ryder Cup points list. Even if he doesn’t make it on points, he will almost surely be a captain’s pick by Thomas Bjorn.

But first things first, and that’s trying to win a major. And with the proper mindset for this test of golf, he’s plugging away at the sort of course set-up that used to bug him.

“They’re always set up difficult,” he said of Open courses. “They’re supposed to be difficult. But shooting over par is hard to take sometimes. So this week for me, from a mindset perspective, I know I’m playing good golf. I got off to a decent start this year, and it’s really about trying to just enjoy my golf. I certainly did that today.”

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