‘The Postman’ Poulter delivers, annoys come Ryder Cup time
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) — Ian Poulter is a very good player who is writing the closing chapters of a very good career — 17 worldwide victories, $27 million in earnings and no major titles but enough top-30 and top-10 finishes to never be overlooked.
When he swaps out his trademark plaid pants for a European Ryder Cup uniform, as he is doing this week at Whistling Straits, he turns into something even better.
Specifically, Poulter becomes an eye-bulging, fist-pumping burst of adrenaline who can put up ’W’s while also getting under almost anyone’s skin, whether it be Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson or even Michael Jordan. His teammates call him “The Postman” — because come Ryder Cup time, he always delivers.
“I’ve never really sat down to try and evaluate how that happens and why that happens,” Poulter said Wednesday when asked what about match play and the Ryder Cup brings out the best in him. “It’s just a very simple form of golf.”
Poulter comes into the seventh Ryder Cup of his career ranked 50th, the worst standing of any of the 24 players who will tee it up beginning Friday. But there was never a hint of doubt that Padraig Harrington would use one of his captain’s picks to make sure the 45-year-old Englishman, an avid Arsenal fan who also is a sports car collector, would be on the team.
“You have players who you want to just focus on playing golf,” Harrington said. “And you have other players who want a bit of a hyped-up week, and Ian is one who can take that pressure and can deal with it.”
Poulter is 14-6-2 in his previous six Ryder Cups. He is 5-0-1 in singles. He has been on five winning teams and only one loser.
He has taken down the likes of Woods, with whom he has an interesting and not-always-smooth past, and Phil Mickelson and Johnson, too. Also, Matt Kuchar. Kuchar was en route to winning the PGA Tour money title in 2010 when the U.S. and Europe showed up at Celtic Manor. He was paired against Poulter, who was warming up for their singles match when a Sky Sports reporter stopped him on the range for a quick prematch interview.
“I WILL deliver my point,” Poulter guaranteed.
He did. The 5-and-4 victory was the biggest blowout for Europe as it held onto a one-point victory.
Though Poulter had delivered four points two years earlier at Valhalla, that came in a loss. This came in a win, and so, a legend was born.
But the match that might best illustrate the impact he’s had on these Ryder Cup teams came at Medinah in 2012 when Poulter made five straight birdies to close the Saturday afternoon fourball match and lift he and Rory McIlroy to a 1-up victory over Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner.
It sparked a final-day comeback for the Europeans en route to a 14 1/2-13 1/2 win. More notably, it came with none other than Jordan, a longtime U.S. golf fan and honorary vice captain, following the match to troll Poulter. At one point, Jordan jabbed his finger into Poulter’s chest in hopes of killing his momentum as he headed off the 16th green.
It didn’t work.
“In the Ryder Cup, he has it,” Jordan said in a 2014 interview with The Golf Channel. “I don’t know how, what he does. He has it. I learned not to mess with Poulter. I can’t get underneath his skin.”
Poulter can, on the other hand, get under other people’s skin.
“He thinks he can beat anyone,” Billy Horschel told Golf Digest earlier this year. “He’s not the guy you want to play. He grinds stuff out. ... He gets in your head. That is Ian to a tee. And that’s why he is so great.”
“A bit of a marmite,” is how Harrington described Poulter, using a British term for a person who people either love or hate.
Poulter, who also has two match-play championships to his credit in regular tour events, said the strategy and excitement that comes out of the man-on-man (or 2-on-2) showdowns puts a sharper focus on things for him.
“Stroke play, you’re plodding into position,” he said. “This isn’t the case here. You can’t expect a par to win a hole.”
He says that brings out the best in him. Others think it brings out the worst. Poulter doesn’t care.
“I’m sure I’ve annoyed plenty,” Poulter said. “I mean, my percentage has been really nice, for me, and not for the guys I’ve played against. So I’m sure that’s been pretty frustrating to be on the receiving end of that.”
More AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports