Will Poulter continue his Ryder Cup success?
He's 12-3-0 at this event, but struggled in 2014
September 25, 2014
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- September 25, 2014
- Ian Poulter celebrates after holing a birdie putt at the 2012 Ryder Cup. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
GLENEAGLES, Scotland – Ian Poulter’s entire body tenses when he screams after holing a putt at the Ryder Cup. His eyes look like they’ll burst from their sockets. His intense reactions scare his children, he joked.
Poulter’s passion for the Ryder Cup is unrivaled. How far can it carry him after a sub-par season, though? That has been one of the most common questions this week, and the answer will be crucial to Europe’s fate at Gleneagles.
He’s 12-3-0 in the Ryder Cup, and has been Europe’s leading points scorer in the past three Ryder Cups. He has won seven consecutive matches, a European Ryder Cup record, and 11 of his past 12.
“I’ve put a lot of blue on the board for Team Europe, and when you’ve done that, you’ve kept a lot of red off,” Poulter said. “Being able to deliver for my team and help get us over the line, I’m very proud of (that).”
His success has made him a “marked man,” the United States’ Matt Kuchar said.
Poulter has struggled this season, though. He had just two top-10s in 19 worldwide starts this year, and none since June. He finished 78th in the FedExCup and has finished outside the top 50 in five of his past six starts. He had to rely on a captain’s pick to make this year’s Ryder Cup. Europe seems to assume, or at least hope, that this event will bring out his best again.
“His form has not been terrific this year, there's no doubt, and he would be the first to say that,” European captain Paul McGinley said. “But … he's always been a guy, even though his form has not been terrific going into a Ryder Cup, (he) seems to find that extra element.”
Fellow Englishman Justin Rose said the Ryder Cup could be the spark that ignites Poulter. Poulter declared himself ready in Thursday’s press conference at Gleneagles. There is undoubtedly something about this event that brings out his best. He brings a football mindset to this team competition, he said.
“Quite clearly, my record in the Ryder Cup is exceptional and my stroke play record isn’t,” said Poulter, who’s won just one stroke-play title on the PGA TOUR. “(I’m) still trying to fathom a way to internally psych myself up the way I do in Ryder Cups.”
Poulter and Rose are 4-1-0 as teammates, making them Europe’s ninth-most fruitful partnership. He’s seen first-hand how Poulter can summon his best play here.
“He’s got the amazing ability to shut everything out,” he said. “When he’s in the zone, his eyes are not really taking everything in.
“He gets sort of channeled into the job at hand, and that is the only way to play under pressure.”
This event can elicit his best even in a Wednesday practice round. Poulter was being ribbed by his group after being blanked for the first 16 holes of their skins game, but he birdied the 17th hole and made a bunker shot on 18 to claim the last four skins, Rose said.
Graeme McDowell hit balls with Poulter last week in Lake Nona, their home club in Orlando.
“I've never seen a guy so charged up 10, 11 days before a Ryder Cup,” McDowell said. “Standing on the back of the range at Lake Nona, literally, the guy is just fizzed.
“Poults is just Poults, so he'll be ready.”
Poulter delivered two of Europe’s biggest points in its comeback at Medinah two years ago. He and Rory McIlroy were 2 down with six holes remaining in Saturday’s final match. Europe would have trailed, 11-5, entering Sunday singles if McIlroy and Poulter lost.
Poulter made birdie on the final five holes to give his team a 1-up victory over Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner, though. Europe then won the first five singles matches Sunday, including Poulter’s 2-up victory over Webb Simpson in the day’s second match. Poulter went 4-0-0 at Medinah.
U.S. captain Tom Watson said Poulter, not McIlroy, is the player the United States would take most pride in beating. McIlroy concurred, saying he’d be prouder of beating Poulter than himself if he were American.
“Poulter is a guy everybody kind of wants to draw, everybody wants to get the best of,” Kuchar said.
That’s exactly what Poulter wants to hear. He took Watson’s statement as a “huge compliment.”
Poulter loves to play the villain in this event, McGinley said.
“I’m one of those players who obviously stands tall,” Poulter said. “I’m very proud to put the shirt on, and when I do that and when I’m visibly seen holing those putts and showing the emotion, that can be the intimidation factor that (the U.S.) may feel.
“I’ve been able to do that an awful lot since playing the Ryder Cup, and if that can continue, that’s how I’ll try and intimidate.”