CHASKA, Minn. Anyone for tennis? Ross Fisher and Ian Poulter are sharing digs this week, and they have been turning their house into the All England Club their Xbox has been getting a pounding, and so has Poulter.
"Ross keeps beating me at tennis," said Poulter, known for his loud outfits and spiky hair. "I'm going to have to give him a slap if he keeps doing it. He's killing me. It's doing my head in!"
There's nothing like a few sets of virtual tennis to keep the housemates' competitive juices flowing for the real golf that lies outside at Hazeltine. Fisher has bragging rights at golf, too. He is three under and tied for second, four shots behind Tiger Woods, but he could have been even lower. He was six under on the day until finishing with two straight bogeys. Poulter is two under.
If Poulter has any sense, he'll hide the Xbox. Fisher is becoming a regular feature on major leaderboards this year. He got to within a couple shots of the lead at the U.S. Open at Bethpage and then blew a chance to win the British Open with a quadruple-bogey eight at the fifth hole in the final round at Turnberry. Here he is again.
The 28-year-old is ranked No. 23 in the world and is one of the biggest-hitters in the game. That makes it easier to manage the 7,674 yards of Hazeltine.
"It's similar to Bethpage," he said, referring to this year's U.S. Open course, where Fisher finished fifth. "It's very, very long, so it will suit me."
Fisher is becoming rather fond of American courses as opposed to the European ones he has cut his teeth on. "Over here, most weeks, it's a bomber's paradise," he said. "And it's very rare that you see wind and rain, whereas in Europe, we play in bad weather all the time."
But any thoughts of playing full time on the PGA Tour have been put on the back burner, he says, by the recent arrival of baby Eve. Still, Fisher has played in all four majors in the same year for the first time, as well as the WGC events, so American fans are getting used to seeing his 6-foot-3 frame stalking leaderboards.
"Hopefully I will now be part of the next wave of European golfers," Fisher said. "I have only played a few tournaments in the States, so they don't know much about me over here yet. But if I, and the others, get some top 10s and hopefully win something, then they are going to find out soon who we are. I am a positive guy. I think I've got the potential to go all the way. I have played with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, so I know what to expect."
Fisher is not lacking in confidence, but he said he won't be disappointed if he hasn't claimed a major before he turns 30.
"Look at some of the other guys," he said. "Monty has not won a major. Sergio has been close, and he was not won a major yet. It took Phil a little while to win a major. I'm only 28. It would be nice to say I won a major championship before I'm 30 but, to be honest, I'm not really thinking about kicking myself if I don't."
With all the tennis and twittering this week, it's a wonder Poulter, No. 21 in the world, found the time to post a 70 in the second round. He finished before Tiger Woods had even teed off and tweeted from the comfort of home: "Sitting on the sofa, feet up, watching the golf, diet coke in hand. The wind has got up. It's going to be fun to watch."
Poulter, who even tweeted what he had for breakfast, got off to a solid start this morning. He was three under before a bogey at the 17th, his eighth, and a double bogey at No. 1, his 10th.
But Poulter bagged two birdies coming in to get into the top 10 for the weekend.
"It's just a shame I didn't take advantage of the par fives today," he said before disappearing into the clubhouse to eat and tweet: "Feet up, laptop on, golf on, just been fed, had my massage, might dose off on the sofa."
Fisher said he spent half an hour on the putting green after the first round and found something he felt was missing.
"I'm still in there with a good shout with 36 holes to go," he said. "Tiger is the greatest golfer we've ever seen, but he's just like you and me. He's just a human being."
Fisher might care to check out his housemate's tweets for an alternative view.
"Tiger's looking very solid, hope he doesn't go too far in front," Poulter wrote. "Need to keep hold of his tail. The man's a machine."