IAN POULTER hopes his return to the US Open is merely a step towards the comeback he wants above all – a Ryder Cup one.
Poulter will tee it up at Shinnecock Hills this week for the first time in the eventsince playing at Chambers Bay in 2015 as part of his revival act.
He began the year trying to get back to the higher echelons of the sport, and his season took a dramatic upturn at April’s Houston Open.
Poulter summoned all his Ryder Cup spirit to sink a clutch 20-foot putt on the last to force a play-off with young American, Beau Hossler.
When Hossler messed up at the first extra hole, Poulter claimed his first win for nearly six years, and his maiden strokeplay success on American soil. Victory for the 42-year-old catapulted him back into the top 50 and into all four Majors for the year.
But, more importantly, it put him in the reckoning for a place in skipper Thomas Bjorn’s European team.
Having missed the loss at Hazeltine in 2016, Poulter has no intention of being on the sidelines at Le Golf National in September.
After a tie for eighth in Italy last Sunday, he currently sits in 10th spot, just two places outside an automatic spot.
“I’ve got quite a bit of motivation to make that team again,” stated Poults.
“Paris will be a fantastic Ryder Cup. The venue is good and the team is already shaping up to be very strong.
“For me to have been a vice-captain last time round was great from an experience standpoint. But there’s nothing like playing.
“To put myself in a position to be close now, and to have a big push this summer at trying to make sure I make that team is great. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
As Poulter prepares for Shinnecock Hills, his mind goes back to 2004 – and he thinks it can’t be any worse.
Poulter qualified for his first US Open at the Long Island venue when it last staged the event and travelled over in high spirits.
That enthusiasm was dampened when he got over there and saw the USGA having to water the greens because the winds had dried them out so much.
The Englishman shot 74-72 to finish at six-over and missed the cut by one, in a championship eventually won by Retief Goosen.
But as Poulter gets ready to go back, he is confident the USGA will have learned their lessons from what happened 14 years ago.
“I’ll be honest, I didn’t enjoy it last time,” he says.
“Watching them having to water the greens because balls wouldn’t stay on them was probably one of my least fun experiences on a golf course.
“Shinnecock Hills is a great course, but I haven’t played it since that US Open.
“But it’s a Major and I feel my game is in good enough form to be able to handle most courses we play right now.
“The challenges of the US Open are always extremely tough and mentally challenging. You know it’s draining on all levels.
“But the week is going to be a more enjoyable one than it was last time out.
“I have a good group of friends in the New York area, so I am staying at one of their houses.
“I’m really going to enjoy the week. It has not been enjoyable to miss out over the last few years.
“And I’m confident the USGA won’t make the same mistakes this time.”