Ian Poulter is ready for a break after a long, eventful stretch on tour. He has one more important goal to accomplish, though, at the RBC Heritage before any time off.
"We'll see if we have a last bit of plaid to put in the closet," said a grinning Poulter, referring to the tartan jacket giving the winner at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
The resurgent Poulter will have that chance Sunday after shooting a 4-under 67 to take a one-shot lead into the final round of the RBC Heritage, putting him in position for his second victory in three weeks.
Before April, Poulter had not won on tour in more than five years. Now, he's one more solid round away from adding another title to his dramatic win at the Houston Open on April 1.
No joke, Poulter's play is for real.
Seven of the Englishman's last 11 rounds have been in the 60s after having just three such showings in his first 20 rounds this season. His latest left him at 13-under 200, and a stroke ahead of Luke List (67) and Si Woo Kim (68).
"It's been a long six weeks," Poulter said.
He was incorrectly told he had qualified for the Masters after a quarterfinal appearance at the WCG Match Play championship. Then down to his final try to reach Augusta National, Poulter needed a birdie on the 72nd hole to force a playoff with Beau Hossler. Poulter prevailed on the first playoff hole.
He's kept up that stellar play at Harbour Town.
"There's been quite a bit of lows in the last 18 months, to be honest," Poulter said. "So if you ride the waves and you trust yourself and you believe in your ability, then hopefully, it's still in there."
Poulter let it out once more to move in front.
He made his run in spurts, moving out front with birdies on the fifth and six holes before getting his last two on the 12th and 13th. He saved par out of the bunker on the par-3 17th, rolling in a rock-solid 6-foot putt and making a routine par on the signature lighthouse hole, the 18th, to stay in front.
"It's just nice to play good golf," Poulter said.
MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC CLASSIC: Steve Flesch needed 38 holes for his first PGA Tour Champions victory.
The 50-year-old Flesch won with a birdie on the second hole of a playoff with Scott Parel at TPC Sugarloaf in the event completed a day early because of forecast rain and lightning. Bernhard Langer dropped out on the first extra hole.
"You never know if you're ever going to win again," Flesch said. "Honestly, it's been harder than I anticipated winning on this tour. The guys are so good. That Langer guy is hard to beat."
Parel bogeyed the par-5 18th on the second playoff hole after his approach hit the bank short and left and went into the water.
"I just was in between clubs a little bit," Parel said. "I had like 209 (yards), which is probably about as bad a yardage that I can have, so I had to kind of choke up on a hybrid a little bit and not try to hit it too hard. If I hit it right, a normal shot's going to be in the bunker, which is no bargain. I just didn't hit it as crisply as I needed to."
Flesch hit long and right into the back bunker, and blasted out to 3 feet. The left-hander won in his 22nd start on the 50-and-over tour after winning four times on the PGA Tour.
"When Scott hit it in the water, the most important thing for me was to obviously not hit it in the water." Flesch said. "So, I just changed my line where I aimed. I didn't aim it as close to the hole. I made sure that my mistake was going to be long in the bunker and just clear the water."
Facing a forecast of 1 1/2 inches of rain overnight Sunday and the threat of lightning Sunday, tournament officials decided Friday to play both the second and third rounds Saturday.
"Any 36-hole day is really tough," Flesch said. "Being able to use the carts today certainly helped with some of the hills out there here at Sugarloaf. It's more mentally taxing to me than physically taxing, especially if you're in the mix kind of like that all day. I know I'll sleep great tonight, but mentally I'm more exhausted than physically."
Because of the possibility of the playoff finishing Sunday, the players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway during the extra holes.