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Ian Poulter: The Man Of The Match

MEDINAH, ILLINOIS | Feeling a bit in¬toxicated with victory and whatever else during the post-match press conference, Lee Westwood suggested that the criteria for the next European Ryder Cup team will need to be rewritten.
“It should be nine (automatic qualifiers), two wildcards and Poults,” Westwood said. “The Poults clause.”
Indeed, history will record that Martin Kaymer made the clinching putt to give Europe its long-awaited, turn-the-tables sequel to Brookline. But when the com¬plete tale of this now epic Ryder Cup gets told, the central figure will be the English¬man with the spiked hair.
It was Ian Poulter, channeling an inten¬sity for this event inspired by his hero Seve Ballesteros, who practically willed Europe to maintain its tight grip on the Cup. The 36-year-old snorted and fist-pumped his way to a 4-0 mark in this competition.
None were more important than a four-ball match featuring Rory McIlroy and him against Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner late Saturday afternoon. Sunday never happens without Poulter’s heroics down the stretch.
With sun setting in the Chicago sky, the Europeans were on the verge of a long evening spent staring blankly into their lager. Looking very much like this town’s feeble Cubs, they trailed 10-4 with the real possibility of going down an unthinkable 12-4. Luke Donald made a clutch birdie to salvage a point for Europe, but 11-5 still would have been a formidable deficit.
Poulter then changed the entire tenor of the 39th Ryder Cup. Sitting at 1 down at 14, Poulter ripped off a birdie on the par 5, and then another one on 15 to bring the match to all square.
Poulter converted yet again on 16 to give Europe a 1-up lead. With a struggling McIlroy serving as nothing more than a cheerleader, Poulter matched the Ameri¬cans with clutch birdie putts of his own on 17 and 18.
All told, Poulter recorded five straight closing birdies in his remarkable run to give Europe a 1-up victory
“He was unbelievable,” McIlroy said. “All the credit to him.”
Poulter’s play suddenly gave Europe faint hope. After all, hadn’t the Americans come back from a 10-6 deficit at Brookline in 1999?
“There was a buzz in the team room last night that didn’t feel like we had a four-point deficit,” Poulter said. “For some reason, everyone was calm, cracking jokes. We just felt we had that tiny little chance to make history.”
Poulter is in the process of a writing a nice section for himself. His 2-up vic¬tory over Webb Simpson Sunday lifted his record to 12-3 in four Ryder Cups.
It could have been 13-3 if European captain José Maria Olazábal hadn’t inex¬plicably put him on the sidelines during Friday afternoon’s matches.
You can bet the next European captain won’t make the same mistake. Simply, Poulter manages to find an extra gear for the Ryder Cup.
Poulter has enjoyed a solid career, to be sure, but he has yet to win a major and wasn’t even one of the 10 automatic qualifi¬ers for the European team; Olazábal chose him as a captain’s pick. But put him in team colors far more muted than his usual look-at-me attire, and Poulter plays as if he, not McIlroy, were the world No. 1.
“I don’t know,” Poulter said. “It’s a pas¬sion I have. It’s a passion I’ve seen at the Ryder Cup for years as a kid growing up, and it’s something that comes from within. I just love it.”
Poulter’s passion often overflows. On Friday morning, he made a crucial putt late in a match against Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker that led to his first point in this Ryder Cup. And it was no small feat in taking down what was considered a top U.S. pairing.
Poulter was feeling it, and he wasn’t shy about showing his emotions to the Chicago crowd as he preened around the green.
“That’s me being me, I guess,” Poul¬ter said. “The Ryder Cup is like no other. You can’t do that in any other situation. It means that much. I’ve seen it over the years with Seve (Ballesteros), Ollie (José Maria Olazábal), (Nick) Faldo, and all the guys.
“That’s why the Ryder Cup is so special, because you can hole that putt at the right time, and it does mean that much. So your emotions just come out.”
Based on his record, Poulter figures to be in line to be Europe’s Ryder Cup captain in 2024 when he hits the age of 48. Watch out on the fashion front when it comes to his input for the team uniform.
First things first, though, as a drained but exhilarated Poulter wanted to revel in Sunday’s victory.
“I’m officially taking two years off and I’ll see you at the next one,” Poulter said.
Indeed, Poulter could go two years with¬out touching a club, and he still would be a lock as a captain’s pick for the 2014 Ryder Cup in Scotland. As Westwood said, Europe wouldn’t have it any other way


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