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October 1 2012

4:45 AM

Poulter: ‘It’s a passion I have’

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Ian Poulter was the heart and soul of the 2012 European Ryder Cup team.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

MEDINAH, Ill. -- Ian Poulter's love affair with the Ryder Cup began in 1993.

He was 17, and he camped out in a tent with two friends a few miles from the Belfry at night and eagerly watched the competition each day. This week at Medinah, nearly two decades later, Poulter solidified his reputation as one of the most competitive and charismatic Ryder Cuppers in history.

Poulter went 4-0 in Europe's improbable victory, making five straight birdies on Saturday to turn the final Four-ball match into a victory that paved the way for Sunday's record-tying comeback. Europe trailed by four when the Singles began but earned a 14 1/2 -13 1/2 win that tied the U.S. in 1999 for the largest comeback in history.

"It's been a truly inspirational day," Poulter said. "It's been history in the making. ... I'm taking three weeks off after this to sit down; I'm definitely having a few drinks, and I'll have a very good reflect back on what's been an incredible week. 

"I've had huge support from so many people this week, and it's been amazing. From the captain to the vice captains, to everybody in the team room, it's been a long week, and we was being beaten, but yet yesterday, there was something in that team room which ignited everybody, and it was inspirational, just to see everybody's kind of personalities change and the atmosphere change in that room; and I knew there was a glimmer of hope.

Poulter was the catalyst as he and Rory McIlroy roared back to beat Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson as the shadows settled over Medinah. Even Luke Donald, who teamed with his buddy Sergio Garcia to take down Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker in Saturday's penultimate match, called Poulter's 12-footer to win the match at the 18th hole the "difference" in Europe's comeback win.

Poulter , who is a former club pro, got a much-needed point early on Sunday as well, winning the last two holes to beat Webb Simpson, as Europe set the tone by winning the first five matches. He ran his record to 12-3-0 overall and 4-0 in Singles in the process.

Asked how long it would take the excitable Poulter to come down from this week, his teammate Sergio Garcia quickly spoke up. "Two years," he said.

Lee Westwood then joked that Europe was changing it's qualification criteria for the 2014 matches at Gleneagles in Scotland.

"It's nine spots, two picks and Poults," he said, citing the newly-named "Poults clause."

Martin Kaymer, who clinched the Ryder Cup for Europe when he holed a 6-footer for par at the 18th hole to beat Steve Stricker, said he was inspired by Poulter’s performance on Saturday.

“He has been fantastic for the team,” Kaymer said.  “Great pick by Olazábal.  Ian should be set in the Ryder Cup forever.”

Poulter, for his part, was at a loss to explain his love affair with the Ryder Cup.

"I don't know," he said. "It's a passion I have; it's a passion I've seen at The Ryder Cup for years and years as a kid growing up, and it's something that comes from within.  I don't know.  I just love it.  I love the whole fact that I've got 11 great teammates, a fantastic captain and vice captains, and I love the team atmosphere. 

“It's something very, very special to be a part of, and you grow a lot closer to 11, 12, 13, 14 other people, and it's very, very special moments that you get at a Ryder Cup."

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