GULLANE, Scotland – Ian Poulter made a bevy of brilliant putts to surge into unexpected contention at the British Open on Sunday and bring back memories of the Miracle of Medinah.
There was no happy ending this time, though.
Starting the final round at Muirfield eight shots off the lead, Poulter hit a hot streak around the turn to pick up five shots in four holes and move within two shots of faltering leader Lee Westwood.
His eyes bulging, teeth gritted and fist pumping, Poulter had rediscovered the putting form that saw him memorably win a crucial point for Europe on the Saturday of last year's Ryder Cup in Medinah. It couldn't last.
He finished on 4-under 67, tied for third and four shots behind winner Phil Mickelson.
"They were going in the middle, like they were in Medinah," Poulter said. "The excitement, the atmosphere, the fans out there were certainly giving me a lot of electricity and pumping me up."
As he strode purposefully down the 13th fairway with the tournament lead suddenly in sight, all sorts of things were going through Poulter's mind — Paul Lawrie's victory in the 1999 Open at Carnoustie after starting the final round 10 shots behind Jean van de Velde, the six-shot swing in last year's tournament as Ernie Els edged Adam Scott to the claret jug.
"This tournament does it year in, year out, and it creates a lot of drama," Poulter said.
Again he was close to the pin with his approach shot but his putt curled to the left of the cup, a momentum-changer and a turning point, according to Poulter.
As was the bogey at No. 16 following an errant tee shot, putting him over par again. That came just at the time Mickelson was beginning a run of four birdies in his final six holes that blew away not just Poulter but the rest of the leading pack.
Poulter had canceled his flight out of Scotland that was booked for 8pm local time, just in case he was needed for a playoff. Or even better, to celebrate one of the greatest comeback wins in Open history.
It was all in vain but he was at least able to celebrate his second best finish at his home major, after being runner-up behind Padraig Harrington at Royal Birkdale in 2008.
"I managed to chop into the guys' lead somewhat around the turn ... I really put myself in a nice position. It's a shame to bogey No. 16, not birdie No. 17," Poulter said. "But 4 under par in those circumstances was obviously a very good round of golf. I'm pleased but I can certainly look back and look at a couple of putts that probably slipped by."
Like in the lead-up to the 2008 Open, Poulter changed his putter before arriving at Muirfield.
"Maybe," he quipped, "I need to change my putter every week."