If Ian Poulter weren’t such an asshole, his comeback this year would be one of golf’s best feel-good narratives. Instead, when he reeled off a three birdies to pull within one of Dustin Johnson at -3 this afternoon, there wasn’t a very big outpouring of cheer, at least among American fans.

And then he arrived at the par 4 8th hole, his 17th of the day, needing to finish with just two pars to effectively guarantee himself a spot in the final group tomorrow. He very much did not do that. After flaring his approach from the fairway into a greenside bunker, Poulter’s attempt from the sand looked exactly like something I just did a few days ago, which is never a good sign for a pro:

That’s a very unfortunate time for that to happen, of course, but it’s a familiar miss from the sand for some of us. What happened next, though, was even worse:

If ever there was a time for Johnny Miller, this was most definitely it. Imagine what he’d have come up with! Poulter’s problems continued with his next effort:

From there, Poulter would actually manage a pretty solid up and down, but by then it was for a triple bogey 7:

That knocked Poulter back to even par, but he still had one hole to play; he found another fairway on the ninth, but he pulled his approach there as well:

And then he faced this putt to save par and avoid a +4 finish on his final two holes heading into the weekend:

That’s not how to finish a round, but it’s a perfect example of the sort of pressure major championships place on players. First of all, the course itself is very, very tough. Currently only two players are under par, and only one other player sits at even par. Though it should be noted, par is just a construct; the overall score is similar to Erin Hills last year, which was mocked by many for being too easy:

Still, it’s definitely tough, and mistakes (especially mistakes to the wrong areas, as Poulter found out behind the 8th green) are punished harshly. But beyond that, there’s the inherent nature of the event; if this was the Humana Challenge, Poulter isn’t feeling any pressure when he finds himself near the lead on Friday afternoon. As it is, players very much know the stakes, and there are examples at the top and bottom of the leaderboard.

Poulter was clearly the former, but here’s three-time major winner Jordan Spieth in a tricky spot at the back of the 18th green, needing to get up and down to have a chance to make the cut:

It’s crazy (and telling) how quickly Spieth was out of that shot in frustration:

And then, after getting an excellent read from Rory McIlroy (who had already effectively missed the cut), Spieth had this putt for par and a chance to make a run on the weekend:

That’s unfortunate for Spieth, but it’s representative of just what can happen at Shinnecock at any moment. And if this is what it’s like on Friday, Sunday is going to be must-watch.

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a columnist at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer. He is probably talking to a dog in a silly voice at this very moment.