By Tony Jimenez
WOBURN, England (Reuters) - Less than three years after his magical putter inspired a 'miracle' Ryder Cup victory for Europe, Ian Poulter says his touch on the greens has temporarily deserted him.
The world number 33 has missed the cut in his last two outings, the Scottish and British Opens, and he puts his sub-standard performances down to a lack of belief with the shortest club in the bag.
"I'm not disappointed how I played because I thought I played good but I'm disappointed I didn't hole my fair share of putts," Poulter told Reuters in an interview.
"It's back to the drawing board now, I've got to try to visually see my lines.
"Some weeks you just can't see the right lines, you can't visualize the ball going in the hole, and that puts the rest of your game under pressure to hit it close."
Poulter showed nerves of steel when he sank five birdie putts in as many holes on the penultimate day to haul Europe out of trouble before the team went on to secure their 'Miracle of Medinah' triumph over the United States in 2012.
The U.S. led 10-4 at one point during the Saturday four-balls before a Poulter-inspired Europe stormed to a 14 1/2-13 1/2 victory against their shell-shocked hosts.
The Englishman said he must now knuckle down on the practice putting green to get the right feel back in his stroke.
"I need to go above and beyond, I need to find the time to put the hours in, put the reps in, before the next event," said the Florida-based Poulter, who has 15 international victories to his name.
"We all rely on putting, we all hit it well from tee to green but unless you hole the putts you are not going to win tournaments. I've had great times and won great tournaments but my putting has held me back.
"I need to work harder on that, put in even more hours. It's time for me to put more emphasis on my putting," added Poulter, as he hosted an annual event at his home course of Woburn that includes junior golfers wearing his signature clothing collection (www.ijpdesign.com).
Next on the agenda for the 39-year-old is the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio starting on Aug. 6, immediately followed by the year's final major, the U.S. PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
"Akron is not a good course for me so I probably won't play more than three or four holes in practice but I'll spend a day on the putting green on the Wednesday," said Poulter, who is still searching for his first win in a major.
"Sometimes you stand over a putt, you visually see the line and you hit the line. It sounds silly to say but you just don't have that feeling all the time.
"Something is not quite right whether it's in my setup, my posture, my grip, my eyeline, once I find that comfortable feeling again the putts will just start to go in.
"It's not until you keep missing putts that you realize there's an issue. I've been there before so it's no surprise when it works itself back in every now and again so it's about refocusing, ticking off my check list of things again and getting back on track."
Some of the world's leading golfers have a specialist putting coach to help them out with their stroke but that is not an idea that Poulter wanted to exploit.
"I'm happy to do it myself," he said. "In 14 years, I've been out of the top 50 in the world just once, so I'd say that's pretty good.
"Who knows whether it would help or not if I brought someone in, or would it mess me up? I guess we'll never know because I'm never going to allow that to happen."
Poulter also seems unconcerned by the prospect of turning 40 in January.
"It's just a number. Tom Watson is 65 and if he can do it, why not continue to play golf for as many years as I can?
"We've seen major champions well into their 40s. I'm young at heart and I'm still happy," he added.
"I'm not bothered about reaching 40. I'm going to have fun whether I'm 40, 42 or 44 and I'd like to think I've got a few more good years left in me yet."
(Editing by John O'Brien)