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Ian Poulter is lurking just three shots off the lead at the Players Championship and admits he’s playing more freely since his PGA Tour card reprieve.

The 41-year-old Englishman thought he’d lost full playing rights after missing the cut at the RBC Heritage last month but, due to some miscalculations with FedEx Cup points, his status was reinstated for the rest of the season.

And, in T5 at TPC Sawgrass and just three behind co-leader J.B. Holmes and Kyle Stanley, it’s clear that not having that cloud hanging over him is benefiting his performance.

“I’ve definitely been freer this week playing golf than I have in the last month and I think it shows on the course,” said Poulter after a one-under-par 71 on Saturday.

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“I think it shows probably in my attitude on the course. It’s a big deal. It was a nice phone call to receive, and I definitely feel better on the golf course for it.

“This is a big week for me. I think having the opportunity now I need to press forward as hard as I can. I feel like the door has been opened and I want to walk through that door and keep playing good golf.”

Poulter also admitted that his final round performance at the Players Championship will have a huge bearing on how his schedule on the European Tour pans out for the remainder of the season.

“I’ve looked at trying to play as many events as I can in a short period of time [on the PGA Tour] from now to lock up whatever it is I need to,” he explained.

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“Obviously a win would be exceptionally nice because then it changes things dramatically. I’d like to go back and play a number of events in Europe in the new series and support certainly the Irish, French, Scottish, if I can.

“I’d like to get in the Open Championship and I’m looking at whether to qualify for US Open or not. But I want to do what I can in the next six weeks. I want to free the calendar up to go back and enjoy some time back in the UK with Katie and the kids.”

Poulter is playing at the Players Championship without his caddie of the past 11 years, Terry Mundy. The caddie has stepped down to a back complaint and is now Poulter’s road manager, with James Walton – past bag man to Robert Karlsson and Seung Yul Noh – now taking on responsibilities.

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