Ian Poulter described his bogey-free 71 as “incredible” in the tough, breezy conditions at TPC Sawgrass as he ended the third day just three shots off the lead.
Poulter was the only man in the field to keep a blemish off his card, although he made only one birdie at the second before grinding out 16 consecutive pars to remain at six under par for The Players Championship.
The English veteran also admitted he was “just happy to be here” just three weeks after thinking he had lost his PGA Tour card, only for his playing rights to be restored when PGA Tour stalwart Brian Gay alerted Poulter that the points structure for major medical extensions had been calculated wrongly.
Poulter is now determined to secure his playing privileges for next season with a big finish on Sunday, and he was delighted with his performance on the back of his superb 67 in the final group of the second round.
“As I got out on the range it was blowing 25 miles an hour and I thought, wow, this is going to be a proper test of golf,” said Poulter. “So, to go bogey-free out there today was incredible. As you said, the only bogey-free round of the day, so obviously I’ve kept mistakes off the card.
“I played very patient golf, I tried to play as sensible as I can, tried not to take on any silly risks out there. I would like to have holed a couple more putts, short putt missed at 10 from five foot from a good nine-iron, had a look there on 16, 17. And there were a few others around the front nine which potentially I could have taken.
“But if you would have handed me a scorecard which said it would have added up to 71 in a bogey-free round, I would have taken it. It’s good golf, I’m playing solid and I’m happy to be here because a few weeks ago I wasn’t, so let’s hope I can take advantage of that.”
Poulter has mapped out a schedule which takes him up until the FedExCup play-offs begin in late August, and he is also intent on playing a number of events in Europe if he can continue his encouraging form and guarantee his PGA Tour card for 2018.
“I’ve looked at trying to play as many events as I can in a short period of time from now to lock up whatever it is I need to,” he added. “Obviously a win would be exceptionally nice because then it changes things dramatically. I mean, dramatically.
“For me, it’s about concentrating and playing hard over the next six weeks. I’d like to go back and play a number of events in Europe, the new Rolex Series of events that they have over there. Keith (Pelley) has done a great job obviously of boosting the prize fund, so I would like to go back and support and play certainly the Irish Open, French Open and Scottish Open, if I can.
“I’d like to obviously get in the Open Championship. I’m obviously looking up whether to potentially qualify for US Open or not. But yeah, I want to do what I can in the next six weeks. I want to free the calendar up to go back and enjoy some time back in the UK with obviously Katie and the kids.”