Decluttering his Life Helps Ian Poulter Clean Up his Game
Ian Poulter has a few good reasons to look forward to the Italian Open.
He has won it twice before; he’s having one of his best years since 2012, and while he is there he will add a gleaming custom-made Ferrari to his fleet of 14.
It has been a good year for Poulter, 42, who not so long ago seemed to be headed for the sidelines. The veteran English golfer was about to lose his PGA Tour card last year and along with it his ability to play golf on the American tour. But he managed to play just well enough to maintain his eligibility, helped in part by the extension of a medical exemption because of a painful arthritic toe and a recalculation of Tour points.
Then came the Players Championship in 2017. It came down to one shot, he said. On his approach to the 18th hole, a par 4, in the final round, he shanked his ball into a hospitality tent and landed between two trees. He executed a perfect recovery shot and nearly holed out from 115 yards to close with a bogey. He tied for second at seven under.
“It was a turning point,” Poulter said in a phone interview. “By pulling that shot off from behind the trees in the pine straw meant the difference between coming in 15th and finishing runner-up.”
The victory in Houston won him a spot at the Masters and he is now eligible for the remaining majors this year.
“A lot of people are wondering why,” Poulter said about his return to the winner’s circle.
Outside of his clean iron play, Poulter attributes much of his success these days to having a “free mind.”
A few weeks before the Players Championship in 2017, Poulter made some major changes. “I reshaped my team,” he said.
Poulter fired his management at IMG, the sports consulting firm, and returned to his former agent Paul Dunkley, who managed Poulter’s career for his first 21 years. Dunkley is credited for much of Poulter’s resurgence after helping him break down his game to the basics, and rebuild it. Poulter also closed his golf clothing line IJP in April last year.
In short, he cleared the clutter.
“I cleaned up everything behind the scenes and simplified my life,” Poulter said. “I made some changes in my staff. I changed management, my accountants, my bookkeeping team. I had a full refresh. For me that was extremely important.”
He said the reboot had improved his game and elevated him to some of the best golf of his career.
“Because of that, it freed me up on the golf course,” Poulter said. “It freed my mind up. I got a lot of things sorted out. It took a lot of time to rebuild and restructure, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
He continued, “I really enjoy being back with Paul and doing the same thing we did 20 years ago.” In other words, winning.
Poulter also credits his revival to the golf coach Pete Cowen. “We came at it from a standpoint that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” Poulter said. “We are always tinkering with very, very minor things. We look at the poor shots and ask why. Then we work on stability and balance. We’re always trying to get the club in the little bit better position so we hit fewer poor shots.”
The trick is to not make any big changes, Poulter said.
“That’s something I’ve never wanted to do,” he said. “I’ve seen players through the years struggle with that and suffer dearly. The good shots are good enough. It’s really about managing those mistakes and making sure we have less of them. There’s hasn’t been a lot to do other than pick over minor little swing changes.”