TEAM success in the Ryder Cup and individual glory in major championships are not mutually exclusive, as the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal, Bernhard Langer, Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam proved on many occasions. But if Ian Poulter has to settle for just one of those things in his career, then being known as one of the greatest players in Ryder Cup history, the catalyst for the ‘Miracle at Medinah’, is just fine by him.
Poulter won all four of his matches in Chicago, improving his overall record to an amazing 12 wins and just three defeats, including the momentum-changing victory with Rory McIlroy in Saturday afternoon’s fourball session. So far, the 36-year-old Englishman has been unable to translate the sort of golf which saw him close out that match with five straight birdies into a major title, but even if his biggest triumphs come in team events rather than individual ones, Poulter could not care less.
“These may be my majors and that’s fine,” he said. “I have more pride and passion in winning the Ryder Cup than winning a major.
“I would love to win one, win them all, don’t get me wrong, and I’ve been close [he was second to Padraig Harrington in the 2008 Open]. But if I don’t win another golf tournament, Sunday is going to go down as the highlight of my career.”
Poulter qualified for his first Ryder Cup in 2004, but played just twice in the record nine-point win at Oakland Hills under Langer, losing in fourballs but beating Chris Riley in the singles. He was a controversial wild card selection by Nick Faldo in 2008 having declined to play the final qualifying event, but justified Faldo’s faith at Valhalla by claiming four points out of five in a losing cause. After qualifying for the team in 2010, Poulter lost his opening game but won the next three as Montgomerie’s team won by a single point at Celtic Manor, but he again needed a wild card from Olazabal to make the side at Medinah.
Poulter was willing to try to define what makes him such a feared opponent in matchplay. “I’m a bad loser. That’s why I’m hard to beat and that’s why guys dislike me and want to beat me,” said Poulter, who has also been on three winning Seve Trophy teams and won the WGC Match Play title (2010) and Volvo World Match Play Championship (2011). “To be part of a team is very special. We created history. You are an individual for the most part. It’s only Seve Trophy and Ryder Cup that you get to spend any time with players and be a team. It’s very nice to be part of that.”