By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Scheduling tournaments at the right time in the best place is one of the trickiest tasks for a global player and Ian Poulter readily admits he overplayed his hand in what proved to be an exhausting 2012 campaign.
The flamboyant Englishman rebounded from a slow start to the season with a spectacular run of success and consistency that included his second World Golf Championships (WGC) win but he ran out of gas in his last two events, in Dubai and California.
"I put myself in a situation this week where, to be honest, I'm kind of spent," Poulter told Reuters after finishing 17th in an elite 18-player field at the World Challenge hosted by Tiger Woods in Thousand Oaks on Sunday.
"My body was just telling me, and I was making stupid mistakes. The first two days I was tired on the golf course and obviously it (jet-lag) takes its toll out of you. It's hard to get it exactly right.
"There are so many good tournaments around the world and I would love to play all of them but unfortunately we can't. You have to look at it, plan it and try and play where you know you can perform."
Poulter closed with rounds of 71 and 72 to end a rain-soaked week at Sherwood Country Club a distant 17 shots behind winner Graeme McDowell but he can reflect on a 2012 season that enhanced his status as one of the game's best and most inspirational players.
He recorded three top 10s in the majors, came from behind to seal a two-shot victory in the HSBC-WGC Champions Tournament at Missions Hills in China last month and underpinned an astonishing fightback by Europe at the Ryder Cup in October.
"It's been amazing, the back half of the season," smiled the 36-year-old Englishman. "Three top 10s in the majors, then I got to the Ryder Cup and backed that up with some great golf."
Poulter, with his trademark eye-bulging and fist-pumping passion, ended an astonishing week at Medinah Country Club with a perfect 4-0-0 record as Europe came from behind on the last day to beat the United States 14-1/2 points to 13-1/2.
"That Ryder Cup far surpasses anything I've ever felt before on a golf course," said Poulter, who was the heartbeat of the European team that week.
"It was an emotional roller-coaster from start to finish, full of amazing golf, amazing drama and a week that I will never forget."
The only blemish on Poulter's otherwise glittering career resume is his failure to win one of golf's four majors and that remains a cherished target for 2013, among others.
"I've got lots of goals, and among those are to keep working on the same things to improve and to get better and hopefully pick up some titles," said the 12-times European Tour winner.
"If you ask anybody in the top 50 their goals for next year, they're going to say they want to win a major. I'm no different. I'd love to win one. It's a work in progress. Three top-10s this season ... I must be doing something right.
"I'm 36 but I feel younger and I've still got a lot of miles left in my body so hopefully we can move that into a lot more tournaments and continue to play well."
In a bid to enhance those chances of breaking through at major level, and partly because of lessons learned this year, Poulter plans to cut back on his playing schedule for 2013.
"I've got to a stage in my career where playing 26 weeks a year is probably too much," he said. "So I'm going to look to cut a few tournaments out next season."
Asked whether those cuts would be made on the U.S. PGA Tour or its European equivalent, he replied: "I don't know yet. That's yet to be decided.
"All I know at the moment is that I am probably going to start in Hawaii and I am either going to take five or six weeks off straight after that."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Peter Rutherford)