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Poulter and Fisher look to build on wins

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Iain Carter | 18:00 UK time, Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Confidence is a wonderful commodity and Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher have it in abundance as they prepare to tee it up here in Shanghai.

Poulter is aiming at breaking into the world's top 10 before the end of the season; Fisher believes he now has what it takes to turn near misses in majors into victories of substance.

And why not? Both have just recorded highly impressive wins and feel ready to take on a field headed by the world's top two at the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament at the Sheshan International Golf Club.

Yes Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are in town and the circus that follows is something to behold. It goes with the territory when you are at the top of the game and that's where Poulter and Fisher are firmly setting their sights.

"There are some big tournaments to finish the year off," the newly-crowned Singapore Open Champion Poulter said. "If I play solid in those tournaments, with the current form I've got, I can play myself into the top 10 in the world.

"That would certainly tick a few of the boxes I set for myself at the start of the year."

Of course hearing lofty goals and words of such confidence is not exactly a surprise coming from Poulter's mouth. His self-belief is his greatest quality, it makes him an over-achiever and he is right to recognise the significance of this week and those that follow.

A win here or at the Dubai World Championship to follow his Singapore success would all but sew up a Ryder Cup place as well and Poulter knows it. "It sounds crazy but in four tournaments you can.

"If you can nick one or two wins, and I've already got one, you can get close and the sooner I can get in that side the better it is for me and I can be more relaxed about my golf next year."

ianpoulter595afp.jpg Ian Poulter celebrates with the Singapore Open trophy

Fisher also has his ambitions to make it into Colin Montgomerie's team for Celtic Manor but now also believes he is ready to win one of the big four championships.

He will readily tell you that he led all four majors at some stage last year and that but for a putt or two going astray at the wrong moment he would have won the US Open.

But he also acknowledges that those are the putts that make the difference. They don't go astray for those who land Masters, Open and US PGA titles.

And so it was his stellar putting displays that helped beat Angel Cabrera and then Anthony Kim to land the Volvo World Matchplay that gave him most satisfaction at Finca Cortesin in Southern Spain last weekend.

"That's what it all comes down to. You've got to hit fairways and greens but the most important thing is you've got to stand up there on the green and hole putts," Fisher said.

"Unfortunately this year in the majors I didn't quite do that on the Sundays. Last week Saturday and especially Sunday I holed some crucial putts.

"It's nice to know that under the gun and under the pressure I can step up there, handle it and knock in some putts. I'll take a lot from that and I'm sure it will hold me in good stead when I get into those positions again."

Fatigue may prove Fisher's biggest hurdle this week. Still in the clothes he wore to win the biggest title of his career he was on a delayed Sunday night budget airline full of returning half-term holidaymakers that didn't get him home until 1.20 am on Monday. By early afternoon the same day he was jetting to China.

Flying commercial and certainly on budget airlines doesn't concern the likes of Woods and Mickelson. But they still had to battle the stagnant Shanghai traffic to satisfy sponsor demands on Tuesday.

Both have attracted vast media armies that follow their every move but each recognises the value of the developing Chinese golf market. The inclusion of our game in the Olympics is expected to open the door on an explosion of interest in golf here.

Woods and Mickelson have already done two press conferences - one in the city centre, the other at the course - before hitting a ball in anger. On both occasions they highlighted the point.

"The inclusion of golf in the Olympics will certainly help," Woods said. "If you look at what happened with Sweden when the government got behind golf there, look at how many golfers they have produced.

"China's done the same thing in pretty much every other sport except for golf. If they do there's no question China will become a powerhouse in golf. With the populous and the amount of courses being constructed the game is exploding over here. It's just a matter of time," added the world number one.

And it is those new courses and those that are planned that provide the big attraction for these players. Lucrative design contracts enable them to make serious money.

Mickelson already has projects underway in partnership with Rick Smith and is accompanying their development with instructional DVDs translated into Mandarin to help Chinese people taking up the game.

It's astute business for someone who has always played a brilliant PR game. He completed another marathon autograph session after a lengthy pro-am with a smile on his face; his only concern was for people threatened by the crush.

He has his detractors, some say he's a phony, but in my opinion he's a class act. Just a few moments before I started writing this he and his caddie Jim "Bones" McKay jumped in a courtesy car with me, expressing gratitude that I was prepared to wait to let them get in.

Believe me there are plenty of supposed big-time Charlies on tour who wouldn't have given a reporter the time of day in such circumstances but both were keen to chat without a microphone in sight.

So it's all rather upbeat from me right now - apart from one irritation. This event has World Golf Championship status and a stellar field. Those who have not travelled have their reasons and some are very good - Scott Verplank having undergone surgery and Kenny Perry the recent loss of his mother.

But the tournament will not be recorded as a PGA Tour win. I can understand it not counting on the money list in America as it is effectively out of season, but as a WGC it should still be seen as a US Tour event to be won.

It seems absurd that the winner can't regard it as a PGA Tour win when it now has the elevated status of the World Golf Championships which are backed by all of the tours around the world.

Ho hum, can't have everything I suppose and Poulter and Fisher certainly wouldn't be complaining if they make it back-to-back wins this weekend. Nor would be Mickelson or Woods be too upset with a win in a market so rich in potential.


  • Comment number 1.

    I hope not all these new golf courses in China are not only aimed at the rich and elite in society. I would love to see golf assessable to all not just the well to do.

  • Comment number 2.

    accessible* Typo sorry.

  • Comment number 3.

    How do you feel about the Dufners of this world playing in a "Champions" event but not, say, McGowan?
    I think the iceberg you've tipped above is larger than it appears and there are plenty of obstacles to be overcome before it's a proper WGC.
    And: Phil and Tiger are only there as part of bigger commercial schemes; difficult to reconcile their paydays with the outlawing of appearance fees by the PGA Tour.

  • Comment number 4.

    Great to see Poulter wins; shame about Ernie.
    Anyone know where I can get hold of THE best Ryder Cup shot ever!!!
    Seve in '83 at PGA National - that 3 wood shot from the bunker.
    Tried the usual online places and no luck!

  • Comment number 5.

    Kwini, Jason Dufner is an excellent golfer who has in 2009 a second, a third 6 top tens and 8 top twenty-fives. I have seen him play in person; he can play with anyone. You can criticize him for chewing tobacco, which he does, but it is unfair to refer to him in a disparaging way.


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