Poulter is at three over par.
Bob Martin/SI
By Paul Mahoney
Friday, July 18, 2008

SOUTHPORT, England — Ian Poulter doesn't do gray. Take his choice of trousers — that's pants, obviously, but we're in England so we don't want to be talking in public about a man's underwear.

Poulter was sporting rather natty lime-green checked pants — sorry, trousers — in the second round at Royal Birkdale. They looked like they might have been fashionedout of a picnic blanket or his grandmother's curtains. He certainly loves attention and, as England's highest placed player (in a five-way tie for 11th at the end of play on Friday), he will be getting the support of the the locals as he goes into the weekend at three over par after a second-round 71, just four shots off the lead held by South Korea's K.J. Choi.

On the back nine, Poulter took three trips to the portable toilets, at 11, 13 and 15. Maybe the 32-year-old had a problem with his pants (the English kind). After consecutive bogeys dropped him to four-over, he had another kind of leak on the par-5 15th with his driver, with his ball plopping into scraggly rough on a hillock. No shot.

Wait a second. Poulter convinced a rules official that the very edge of a camera tower was in his line of sight to the green and, a free drop later, Poulter was sweeping a 3-wood out of a lovely neat lie. "If I take that shot on from where I was and get it slightly wrong, then the cameraman's dead," Poulter explained after his round.

Marshals said that many players had been in the same position but had chipped out to the fairway. "Good shot out of the rough, Ian," shouted a Brit in the crowd. "Talk about using the rules to your advantage."

But it was smart thinking from Poulter. "It worked wonders for me," he said. "I certainly wouldn't have been able to play that shot from where I was."

But the ensuing birdie putt on the 15th green slid by the hole, as did another at the 16th, and Poulter started to look frustrated, putting his hands over his face and shaking his head. "A couple of putts slipped by," he said, "and I thought it was going to be one of those days."

Fortunately for him, he set up another birdie chance at the par-five 17th, This time, to his evident delight, he rolled in a 15-footer . He punched the air like Tiger and tossed his putter at his caddie from eight yards away. All jolly good fun — except that his caddie had turned away and only did look around just as the putter was about to knock his head off. The looper showed good hands to make a smart catch amid much laughter.

The birdie and the chuckles energized Poulter, who tucked his putter under his arm while walking onto the 18th green so he could applaud the fans in the packed grandstands who rose to give him a standing ovation.

Standing behind the 18th green, Poulter allowed himself to dream of a Sunday pairing with the flashy Greg Norman, who, naturally, is one of Poulter's heroes. "To see him on an Open leader board again is awesome," Poulter said. "I'm a massive Greg fan. To play with him would be...nice," he said, smiling.

"My dad would love it."

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