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Laid back Ian Poulter enjoying Scottish Open tilt

The gallus swagger, the chest puffed out like a gorilla at the height of the mating season? It could only be Ian Poulter. Or this correspondent when he’s finished filing his copy? No, it’s definitely Ian Poulter.

There were plenty of reasons for Poulter to be chipper here at The Renaissance yesterday as the Englishman kept himself in the thick of things at the halfway stage of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open with a four-under 67 for a 10-under tally.

As he climbs the brae on the age front – he’s 43 now – Poulter is still as cocky as the king of spades but golf’s sobering realities, as well as life’s fluctuating fortunes, have given the former Ryder Cup talisman a more appreciating side.

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It wasn’t that long ago that Poulter was plumbing such lowly depths, his snazzy outfits just about had deep-sea coral on them.

Calum Hill makes surge up Scottish Open field

A combination of injuries and a loss of form saw him slither to 184th in the world rankings at the end of 2016 and flirt with the possibility of losing his PGA Tour card. He hadn’t be so far down the global order since he ended the 2000 campaign in 160th.

Poulter is currently 38th in the world. He’s had a couple of top-three finishes this season and he’s going into next week’s Open with a quiet sense of optimism instead of boisterous bravado.

“Maybe nine or so years ago, being a bit younger and a bit more fiery, I would have felt more confident going into an Open,” said Poulter, who has a brace of top-three finishes to his name in golf’s most venerated major.

“I’m now a little bit older and wiser, greyer too, and probably a bit more chilled to be honest.” His trials and tribulations a couple of years ago led to that more laidback approach.

“When it’s all going horribly wrong it makes you sit back and think that it’s not life or death,” he added.

“My life is great. It was pretty miserable a couple of years ago, I have to say, although not that miserable when compared to certain things happening around the world. But it just kind of puts things into perspective.”

Lurking menacingly on the leaderboard here in East Lothian, Poulter is hoping he can maintain his form over the weekend and make a sturdy title tilt before heading to Portrush with purpose, if not publicity.

“It’s perfect,” he said of next week’s showpiece occasion which brings the curtain down on the men’s major season.

“The pressure is all on Brooks [Koepka], Rory [McIlroy], DJ [Dustin Johnson], Rosey [Justin Rose] and all the others.

“I guess I can fly under the radar a little bit and have a bit of fun. I’m happy to be able to go into majors feeling that way. It’s a great position to be in.

“I’m playing some good golf. Even if I look at the back half of last year and the early part of this year, I’ve been on the leaderboard a lot.

“I feel comfortable with the equipment in the bag, I feel happy playing links golf. Hopefully, I can go close this weekend and head into next week looking to have a big Open.”

It’s going to be a big Open regardless next week. Tickets were sold out ages ago and Portrush will be packed to the gunwales.

In 1951, the last time the championship was held at Portrush, the flamboyant Max Faulker, with his pastel hues and two-tone shoes, collected the Claret Jug.

Poulter, meanwhile, has always tried to steal a march in the sartorial stakes. Indeed, some of his more colourful rig outs – we all remember the Unions Jack pants or the tartan troosers – occasionally grabbed more headlines than his golf.

The fact he had to shut down his own clothing firm after a decade of trading was a particularly sore one to stomach for this dedicated follower of fashion.

He may be 43, but he still likes to a cut a dash. “Look, I still ironed clothes so they’d look sharp for today, that hasn’t changed,” said Poulter, who has racked up 17 worldwide wins during a profitable career.

“But I don’t have the clown shoes on. That’s one difference, so I don’t have that pressure now. It’s a lot calmer than it was back then.”

Having kept himself in the title race this weekend, Poulter has a sniff of success again. He may have adopted a more carefree approach to his golfing life but one thing that has not changed is his ferocious will to win and his unwavering competitive instinct.

“I always want to kick someone’s backside on a snooker table, I don’t want to lose at a game of cards, I don’t want to lose at anything,” he said.

“I’ll be a horrible person to play against at anything, because that’s just in my nature to be that way. That’s never going to leave me.”

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