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In-form Ian Poulter within touching distance of Open leaders

By Carl Markham

A "bonus" week at The Open has sent Ian Poulter's confidence soaring, and it is being reflected in his game as he draws on memories of his 2008 runners-up finish at Royal Birkdale for inspiration.

The Englishman carded a level-par 70 in difficult conditions on the second day at the Southport links to remain three-under and within touching distance of the lead.

Poulter has run into form at the right time, having had to qualify for the Major on his home course of Woburn after slipping down the world rankings after injury forced him to miss last year's Open at Royal Troon - as well as the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine.

Because of his injury lay-off, Poulter had 10 events this season to earn enough FedEx Cup points or money to retain a full PGA Tour card but came up short - only to get a reprieve when American Brian Gay, also playing on a medical exemption, then alerted officials to a discrepancy in the points structure.

Poulter subsequently finished second in The Players Championship and recorded a top-10 finish at last week's Scottish Open in between qualifying for The Open.

"This is a massive bonus for me to be in this position. I haven't played a Major for a little while and I'm excited, I'm pumped up. I feel my game's coming back to form," said the 41-year-old.

"I'm definitely enjoying my golf right now because of what's happened. I'm ready to go out there toe-to-toe with anyone this weekend.

"I'm in a good frame of mind. I feel confident. The large confidence tank that was empty a few months ago is starting to fill up and I like it when it gets full up.

"I play some of my best golf when I'm pretty confident and I'm excited for this weekend; I can't wait. I wasn't in this position in 2008. I came from further back to get myself in position."

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