Ryder Cup charge: Ian Poulter plays from the ninth tee on Thursday
St. Louis (AFP) - Britain’s Ian Poulter has four wins in five Ryder Cup appearances and hopes a late charge in qualifying might earn him a European automatic berth for next month’s showdown in France.
Poulter fired a three-under par 67 Thursday to stand two strokes behind US leader Rickie Fowler after the opening round of the 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club.
Fowler has two more events, including the year’s final major, before the European squad is set, four players on points and four more on world ranking.
The 42-year-old Englishman, known for his pivotal role in Europe’s 2012 “Miracle at Medinah” comeback victory, stands 22nd in points needing to hurdle 18 players to qualify.
He’s 31st in the rankings, with 15th-ranked countryman Paul Casey in the last Ryder Cup spot on rankings as a US PGA playoff opener in suburban New York looms.
“I’ve got this week and I’ve got New Jersey because I think it’s picked Sunday night of the Denmark event, which is the third day of Boston,” Poulter said.
“I got two weeks to try and push in. I’m close, but I need a little push. If I can push this week for sure, if I can have a strong week in New Jersey as well and edge in, it would be fantastic.”
Poulter regrets a final-round 74 that left him level 10th at last week’s WGC event.
“I could have got it done last weekend. That’s why I’m a little frustrated that I didn’t, but I think I can squeeze in if I play well here,” said Poulter, who has never won a major title.
Blocking off the Cup quest has been tough, Poulter admits.
“I’m trying not to think it, but I know it’s there,” he said. “I’m close enough now where one good week in the next two weeks can push me in. It’s on my mind. I want to be there in Paris. So hopefully we can make it.”
- Furyk eyes two young guns -
Two hopefuls for the US squad, Xander Schauffele and Tony Finau, played alongside US Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk on Thursday in what could be seen as an audition for possible captain’s picks, of which Furyk has four to hand out next month.
Furyk fired a 69, one shot lower than Schauffele, while Finau shot 74.
“Both guys are great young players,” Furyk said. “I haven’t had an opportunity to play too much with Tony, but I have played with him, seen him play, know him real well, talk to him in the locker room.
“That’s the first time I ever played with Xander, so exciting. Both really talented young players. They got off to tough starts this morning and they scrapped it out.
“Tony had some bumps and bruises along the way but he fought and fought and made some birdies.”
Furyk said he was impressed watching on television as Schauffele shared second in last month’s British Open.
“He seemed pretty unflappable, seemed like a guy that doesn’t let much bother him, let’s it roll off his back and goes to the next hole,” Furyk said.
“I was impressed with the way he conducts himself and the way he handles himself.”