IT was inevitable that the spirit of Seve Ballesteros would loom large over the Ryder Cup, it having been the first since his tragic death. There were more mentions of the great man than there were shots hit at Medinah but, amid all the tributes, there was one comment that seemed more apt than any other. And it was this: In the search for a successor, Ian Poulter, in Ryder Cup play, is unquestionably the new Seve.
In fact, Poulter did something that no other player has managed before him, be they European or American. The manner in which he galvanised his beleaguered team and, through his gladiatorial brilliance, dragged them to a state of mind where they believed in the miracle, was unprecedented in the history of the matches. No single player has ever had such an influence on the destination of the Ryder Cup, Seve included. If we’re looking for a comparable example of a one-man revelation we’d need to shift sports and think about the impact Diego Maradona had in inspiring Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup. Poulter was that good.
We will remember that Europe were 10-6 behind going into Sunday’s singles but the comeback was even greater than four points. At one stage on Saturday night Europe trailed by an insurmountable six points before winning the last two matches of the session, Poulter taking the last contest on the golf course with his now famous five straight birdies. That is when the comeback began, not Sunday. And it was Poulter who sparked it.
The Englishman has now won seven Ryder Cup matches in a row, a gob-smacking statistic. Truly, Seve’s Ryder Cup legacy is safe in his hands. You want more for Poulter, though. He finished in the top-10 in three of the four major championships this year, but has yet to make a breakthrough on that kind of stage. You hope that, when his career story comes to be written, he’s not just described as a great Ryder Cup player but a great player who, on top of being a talisman for his team, also won as an individual the major titles his outrageous talent deserved.