Ian Poulter described the US Open experience as like “pulling teeth”. He must be down to the gums now.
For 16 holes, he had been the peacock of old. The feathers were up and the Englishman was a sight – all arched back, straight shoulders and cocksure strut.
It was a scene, of course, with which an American audience are only too familiar.
Shinnecock Hills’ bite, though, can be as poisonous as the ticks that lie in wait for bare ankles in the long grass.
Poulter’s US Open chances aren’t quite in need of anti-venom yet, but events at his penultimate hole have delivered a nasty scratch to his hopes.
It was an innocuous bunker shot at the eighth that proved painful – a thin over the green compounded by a duffed chip that found such sticky grass a triple bogey was the best he could do.
When he lost another shot at his final hole, there was something rueful in the stare. The belief that looked unshakeable just 20 minutes previously felt a little punctured.
But Poulter is nothing if not defiant.
“It just looked really stupid,” he said. “So yes, I felt stupid knifing the first one. I felt even more stupid semi-chunking the next one. And I didn’t do much better on the next one either.
“Maybe it makes a few people happier that we kind of mess up as much as anyone else. We’re human right? The best outcome for me is to put it out of my mind.
“I’ve got to look at the position I am in for the weekend – tied 4th. I feel pretty confident about where my game is. I’ve just got to make sure I don’t make any silly little mistakes.”
There had been no hint of such an unsatisfactory climax to this second round.
Poulter’s iron play had been magnificent – a collection of arrows that had put him on the brink of joining Dustin Johnson at the summit of the leaderboard.
It was marked by four shots in particular – a gutsy 10 footer on the 14th to avoid a second early bogey, added to a strike made for pro-tracer on the fourth that set up his first birdie.
A howitzer of a 3-wood – from all of 300 yards – then put him into red numbers a hole later and a beautiful bunker shot, with the ball sitting in the back of the trap, saved par on the 6th.
“It was a little better than the one on 8,” Poulter quipped.
But with the scorecard the only measure that matters, this 72 was defined by a brief lapse in concentration. Can he recover? On the interview stand, with equilibrium restored and the chest puffed out once again, Poulter was without doubt.
Even if we may all have some.
“I’m 1-over par in a US Open. I am not sure how else to look at it,” he explained. “There’s only a couple of US Opens where if somebody offered you that you perhaps wouldn’t take it.
“I am right in it. There’s a disaster on every single hole. On Thursday, I think I saw a stat that said every hole had been double bogeyed and it was 1,000 over par for 156 guys.
“The stats don’t lie. This golf course is really tricky. I’m in the hunt.”