As we saw at the Masters, the PGA Tour has a surplus of young, talented stars, many of whom have already notched wins this season. Yet none of them are currently playing better golf than 42-year-old Ian Poulter, who has rounds of 69, 64 and Saturday's bogey-free, four-under 67 at Harbour Town to grab a one-stroke lead in the RBC Heritage at 13-under 200.
Despite an uncommon , exhausting six -week stretch of events, the Englishman has played some of the best golf of his career, having made the quarterfinals at the Match Play and winning the Houston Open to earn an invitation to the Masters, where he tied for 44th.
"Still standing, that's a good thing," said Poulter. "Six weeks is unusual for me to play that many weeks in a row, but I can muster up another day, see if we can pull it out of the bag again."
Poulter's round featured just four birdies and a bunch of pars, many of which he had to scramble for, a statistic he leads the field in through 54 holes.
"Clean card, that's what's key around this golf course," he said. "I'm driving it well, I feel confident with my irons, distance control. I hit a couple of loose shots out there today, I was probably in between clubs and rushed when I had the perfect wind, pulled it left there on the par 3. It's the right place to miss it if you're going to miss it left, chipped it down there to hole it. The two par 3s were the key pars I think to my round today on the back nine."
While everything is clicking, the most noticeable improvement in Poulter's game has been with his putter, one that he famously used during the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah. Entering the week he still ranked 160th in strokes-gained/putting, but ranks eighth in that same statistic at Harbour Town and is tied for eighth in putts per green in regulation.
"I needed a bit of inspiration," Poulter said of his old flat stick, adding, "I know I've been playing well for a long period of time, I've been very frustrated, I was frustrated in Tampa, played exceptional golf and the putter just wasn't working. So I switched to a new one there and gave it to a kid on the back of the green.
"I went home and I was kind of in disarray at home, I've got an office full of old putters and picked it out of the bag and I'm looking at it going 'come on,' surely I can remember how good this thing was or how good I was with the putter because it's the feeling."
A few more good rolls with the putter on Sunday could give Poulter his second victory in the last three weeks, this strong run of form coming more than six years after his last worldwide victory. His 54-hole lead is the fourth of his career, and he's only converted once, which came at the Houston Open.
One back at 12-under 201 are Luke List (67) and Si Woo Kim (68). List, who fell in a playoff to Justin Thomas at the Honda Classic, is still in search of his first career win, while Kim can grab a victory for a third consecutive year if he closes it out on Sunday.
C.T. Pan and Billy Horschel are at 11-under 202, and Kevin Kisner and Chesson Hadley are at 10-under 203.