As if there aren’t enough distractions at Pebble Beach with all those lovely views and all that scraggy rough and all those tiny greens and the wind whipping off the Pacific Ocean.
Ian Poulter has to overcome another painful test of his resolve even before he even begins his second round Friday. His tee time is 1:58 p.m., while England plays against Algeria at 11.30 a.m. in the World Cup. His heart is begging him to watch it. His head knows that business comes before pleasure. Well, sort of.
“I’m going to get up early to watch the first-half,” Poulter said after firing a 1-under-par 70 in his first round. “Hopefully England will be 4-0 up so I don’t have to worry about the second-half.”
Confidence was low for Poulter coming to the U.S. Open for his first look at Pebble Beach that was not on a video game.
“I was frustrated,” he said. “But Led [David Leadbetter, his occasional coach] found and corrected a fault in my swing on Monday,” Poulter said. “I made 2 bogeys today — and three birdies. If you limit your bogeys to two a day, that’s good. You have some shortish iron shots and there are five or six chances [for birdies] out there.”
Pebble Beach has been love at first sight for Poulter and he admitted he felt like every other tourist who comes to this corner of California.
“It’s just a fabulous place,” he said. “I played my first couple of rounds of golf taking it in, not just the golf course, but obviously the scenery. They have laid it out amazing, and it’s just a joy to play. I love it. You could play this course every day of the week and never get bored.”
The 34-year-old has come a long way from working in a pro shop to No. 8 in the world and he has gotten here as a late bloomer with grit.
“We all know how good the young guys like Rory [McIlroy] and Ryo [Ishikawa] are,” he said. “They’re ahead of the game of where I was at that age. I was working in a pro shop, playing off a 4-handicap and selling Mars bars and tee pegs and eating chocolate and having ham, egg and chips every day.”
The free buffet in the players’ lounge on Thursday must have tasted even better after Poulter salvaged a par on No. 18 after visiting three bunkers on the same hole for the first time in his career.
“It was a bucket-and-spade job, wasn’t it?” Poulter said, laughing. “One-under-par is a great score. But you have to be patient around this place or you’re gonna be going home pretty quickly.”
The same could be said for his beloved England soccer team.