By Simon Evans
KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina (Reuters) - Britain's Ian Poulter birdied the first five holes at the PGA Championship to challenge eventual winner Rory McIlroy but came undone with three consecutive bogeys on the back nine as the Northern Irishman marched to victory.
Poulter, who got within a stroke of McIlroy early in the fourth round on Sunday, ended tied for third after carding a three-under 69, a finish that will almost certainly earn him an automatic place in the European team for next month's Ryder Cup.
But while the Englishman was pleased that he will likely not have to wait on a call from Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal with news about his picks, he was disappointed that his early surge faded leaving him nine shots behind McIlroy.
"I guess it was a dream start, birdieing the first five holes," said Poulter, whose best finish in a major is second at the 2008 British Open.
"I put myself in position, which was great. I couldn't ask for a better nine holes and then obviously birdieing 11 and 12 was also pretty good, too.
"So I put myself in position and I guess I run out of a little bit of steam coming around the turn on 13, 14, 15. I come unstuck right there. Just disappointing to bogey the last, really."
Poulter, who trailed McIlroy by six shots heading into the final round, rejected the notion that he may have paid the price for pushing too hard to catch the eventual champion.
"I didn't press at all. I still felt that I had to get through that stretch (of holes). There was no case of pressing in any way, shape or form," said Poulter. "I just thought I needed not to make any mistakes and unfortunately I made three on the spin which was a real shame."
With McIlroy, who won by eight strokes, showing such outstanding quality through his round and adding three birdies on the front nine, Poulter would, in any case, have had to settle for second place, easing the pain of his bogey-run.
"It was a great day. I hit a lot of good golf shots, and it's just a shame I couldn't quite finish it off," said the 36-year-old, who was fulsome in his praise of McIlroy.
"Rory has obviously played some immense golf out there today and when he plays golf like he's playing this week, and especially the last couple of days, he's very impressive to watch," he said. "You know, everybody should take note; the guy's pretty good."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)