TURNBERRY, Scotland The DJ at Roxy's pub in Girvan, just down the A77 from Turnberry, was blasting Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" at 11 p.m. on the eve of The Open when Ian Poulter decided it was time to head for home. The shy and understated dresser from England had been hanging out with a bunch of caddies and relaxing at the bar, but he was drinking nothing more sinister than a bottle of mineral water.
"Can't wait to get started," he said before making his exit. "Really looking forward to playing well this week. Quietly confident."
As if Europe's peacock of the links does anything quietly. Poulter had good reason to expect he would contend for the claret jug. He finished runner-up last year at Royal Birkdale and was Europe's top scorer at the Ryder Cup in their losing effort at Valhalla. Some bookmakers this week even installed him as the second favorite behind Tiger Woods.
Poulter was so excited upon his arrival at Turnberry last Sunday evening that he headed straight to the 18th green to soak up the atmosphere. He took photographs with his mobile phone of the scene there, with the giant yellow scoreboard lit up in the darkness, and posted them on his Twitter feed for his followers, more than 270,000 strong. He wrote that he dared to dream that his name would be writ large at the top come Sunday night.
"Security guards came out and asked me what I was doing there and to get off," Poulter said. "That was my first look, and I nearly got escorted off in a police wagon."
Poulter tweeted again after a first-round 75: "Sorry folks played absolutely shocking today never hit 1 shot that I was happy with." But life got worse in the wind and drizzle that greeted the morning groups on Friday. A double bogey at the second and a triple bogey at the fifth set the tone for another miserable day. Out in 41, back in 38 for a nine-over par 79 and a championship total of 14 over. Only a handle of fellow hackers will save him from finishing dead last. The dream is over for another year.
But at least Poulter was still laughing. "Horrible, horrible," was how he described his two rounds at Turnberry. "All you can do is laugh about it. I just couldn't hit anything out of the middle of the club. I could have carried a set of spades in my bag and I still wouldn't have found the middle. It was nothing to do with the course. If we had played on the muni down the road, I'd have still missed the cut.
"My week's done, thank God," he said. "I'm going to get down the M6 and get home." The next tournament for Poulter will be Akron, Ohio, for the WGC Bridgestone in August, followed by the PGA Championship at Hazeltine, Minn.
"It wasn't so much the pin positions that were the problem for me this week," he said. "It was the green positions. Maybe I should have had a beer in the pub instead of that mineral water!"