GOLFERS are usually reluctant to admit any form of mental fragility but Ian Poulter is hilariously open about the OCD that dominates all he does on and off the course.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A fixation with order, routine or neatness that can cause severe anxiety in the sufferer if forced to deviate from their very
And listening to Poulter speaking passionately about the neat order of
the cans in his pantry and how fiercely defensive he gets when it comes to packing and hanging his clothes, the man sounds like a textbook case.
But rather than seeing his attention to detail as a weakness, Poulter believes his quest for perfection is a strength that could drive him this week to satisfy another compulsion that consumes him.
The burning desire to win The Open Championship.
Poulter smiled and said: “I’ve been OCD since day one. When I was an assistant pro I was always tidying the golf shop.
“It’s brutal. At the start of a tournament week all my outfits will be hung Monday through Sunday – trouser, shirt, trouser, shirt.
“Not when I’m at home but tournament week I am ready. My case is packed in a way where my outfits are laid out when I pack. It all goes in day order so when I pull it out I can just hang it and it’s all in order.
“I always pack it myself. No one touches my suitcase.
“One of the guys from my management had to re-pack for me at a tournament because we had to leave rather quickly and he was freaking out because he’d never seen a suitcase like it.
“Because I was coming here to the Scottish Open and then straight down to Hoylake I had to pack 13 outfits in my case this time. I might chop and change the order because of the weather but it is just a case of being neat and tidy.
“My clothes are very important to me and if there was one item I’d save in a fire it would probably be my pyjamas – I wear the same stuff to bed every night.
“I’ve had times when my bags have not turned up at an airport but they got them there by the following morning.
“But if my clothes didn’t turn up in time for a tournament I wouldn’t play. That is a straight withdrawal – go home.”
Don’t laugh. He’s deadly serious about that. The way Poulter sees it, if he’s not looking immaculate then he’s not ready to produce similarly flawless golf.
He added: “I just don’t like not knowing where anything is. I decide what I wear – no one tells me.
“My missus is neat and tidy anyway which is brilliant – if I was very OCD and she wasn’t I’d be getting on her nerves.
“The nanny has OCD as well which is brilliant and my son Joshua is so OCD it’s amazing. He’s two and he’ll walk straight to the bin after he’s eaten a lollipop with his stick and put it in.
“Everything has to have its position. I’m always straightening the clubs in the bag.
“On the tee, if we’ve 40 seconds to wait, I’m always fiddling with them. It will
literally have to be four iron, five iron, six, seven, eight, gap wedge, lob wedge. Then my caddie Terry picks them up and walks off and they all jumble up everywhere.
“My pantry at home is ridiculous. Open the door and you would laugh – everything is in order.
“I couldn’t find the HP Sauce the other morning for a sausage sandwich I’d made and the toys were out the pram. Someone had just stuffed it back in the fridge.
“It was doing my head in so I had to pull everything out, put it all on the floor then put it all back in so the dairy stuff was on one shelf, salad on the next and so on.”
When asked if he has ever sought psychiatric help for his obsession, Poulter looks genuinely perplexed. After all, surely meticulous preparation is at the heart of every top sportsman’s success?
And having gone to watch the tennis at Wimbledon two weeks ago, it’s clear to Poulter that Rafael Nadal is a fellow sufferer of sorts. He added: “I like that because his routine between points is the same all the time, he is always pulling his pants out of his backside and putting his hair behind the ears.
“It’s his thing, and if he doesn’t do it he’s not ready to hit the shot – and that’s what we do as golfers.
“Everybody has their own pre-shot routine. On my putts I don’t like a sweater down over my wrist so I’m always stretching my arms out. Routines are important and if you get outside your comfort level then people’s routines change really quickly – it’s noticeable and that’s when people make mistakes.
“It’s not just about hitting the shot, you need to play the game right. It is not a problem to me – I think it is a good thing. I don’t see it as a bad trait to have.
“To know you want everything in a nice straight line. If I go into the scorer’s hut straight after a round I can’t stand it when all the lads have thrown their pencils on the table, so I put them all together and straighten them all up. I just can’t help it.
“When I was first out on tour, I shared a room with Rosie (Justin Rose) and he was a nightmare because he left all his stuff in the room. I was always taking it home for him. He is not good.
“I am not even sure that he packs his own suitcase.”
Despite his obsessive need for order, it’s safe to say Poulter would be happy to find a little extra room in his suitcase for a nice silver Claret Jug next Sunday night.