Ian Poulter eyeing first title since 2012 after 'brutal' day at Scottish Open
Three months after thinking he had lost his PGA Tour card, Ian Poulter is on course for a first victory since 2012 after surviving a "brutal" day in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
Poulter defied strong wind and heavy rain at Dundonald Links to card a third round of 71 and finish nine under par alongside playing partner Callum Shinkwin and Australia's Andrew Dodt.
Fellow Englishman Andy Sullivan is two shots off the lead after surging through the field with a 67, the lowest score of the day, with Ireland's Paul Dunne, Sweden's Johan Carlsson and New Zealand's Ryan Fox a shot further back.
Halfway joint leader Padraig Harrington fell out of contention after struggling to a 79 in conditions which reminded Poulter of the final round of the 2008 Open at Royal Birkdale, where the pair finished first and second.
"It was brutal at times," said Poulter, who came through final qualifying at Woburn 11 days ago to book his place in next week's Open at Birkdale.
"Days like today don't come around very often and I can think back to Birkdale on that Sunday, which was some of the toughest conditions I've ever played in. This would slide along right with it."
After playing just 13 tournaments last year due to a foot injury, Poulter had 10 events this season to earn enough FedEx Cup points or money to remain fully exempt.
He came up short in both categories after missing the cut in the Valero Texas Open in April, but American Brian Gay, who was also playing on a medical exemption after back problems, then alerted officials to a discrepancy in the points structure used for players competing in that category.
"There's no question I feel better because of that," added Poulter, who made the most of his reprieve by finishing second in his next event, the Players Championship at Sawgrass. "There's a lot of pressure come off my shoulders, I can just go out and play golf.
" It's just nice to be in a good position. It's a big stage right now, the third of a run of great events on the European Tour. T here's a lot at stake.
"I feel energised and excited about the golf I've been playing. T here's life in the old dog yet and I'm relishing the opportunity to go out and get stuck in.
"My whole family are up here which is really nice. The last trophy I handed to Luke (his eldest son) was on his birthday. I told him before I went out to play I'd hand him a trophy and I did.
"It would be awesome to win again. I've got 18 good holes to play and try to do that and I'm looking forward to the opportunity."
Shinkwin has had more disqualifications than top-25 finishes on the European Tour this season, but impressed Poulter with his third round of 72, the highlight of which was a tap-in eagle on the 14th.
"It's the first time I've played with Ian and we dragged each other along, which was good fun," said Shinkwin, who was disqualified for signing for an incorrect score in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and for playing with a club he had damaged in anger during the Nordea Masters.
"I don't think I've played in wind and rain like that before. It was coming down at a really bad angle, especially the mid part of the round, but I managed to grind it out and get through level par."
Shinkwin and Dodt are in pole position to claim two of the three Open places up for grabs for non-exempt players who finish in the top 10, but that would require a major change of plans for Dodt.
The 31-year-old and his wife Ashleigh have a five-day holiday booked in New York, starting on Monday, but Dodt said: "My wife only flew in from Sydney this morning but I'll be quite happy to cancel the holiday for a spot in the Open, my first major."
Sullivan's 67 saw him climb 27 places up the leaderboard and featured six birdies in the first 14 holes, followed by a bogey, double bogey, eagle finish.
"I was absolutely seething standing on that 18th tee, but fortunately we had a bit of a wait because Ross Fisher lost a ball and that allowed me to get my head back on," said Sullivan, who holed out from a greenside bunker for his eagle.
"I'm just glad that after putting all the hard work in through the weather I got my reward in the end there."