Ryder Cup 2021: Ian Poulter on 'secret' of wearing European shirt

It’s no coincidence that Ian Poulter has now received five captain’s picks in his seven Ryder Cup appearances. Unlike some players in the US teams he’s faced over the years, the Englishman would walk over broken glass to represent Europe in the biennial contest.

Ian Poulter celebrates during the singles in the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris. Picture: Jamie Squire/Getty Images.

“I’m not sure what the secret is, but I come with a mindset of passion, adrenalin and determination - everything that comes from within,” said Poulter of what has helped bring out the best in him in the event, having been dubbed ‘The Postman’ for always delivering against the Americans.

“I can be selfish as a golfer, but I’m not that week. I’m happy to put my arm around the shoulders of my team-mates and give everything for the other 11 players in that team room. I can play with anyone in that team. I can play foursomes and fourballs. Delivered points in most of my singles.”

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Poulter made his debut under Bernhard Langer’s captaincy as the visitors recorded a thumping win at Oakland Hills in Detroit in 2004 and has since played on four more triumphant teams, most memorably in 2012 at Medinah, where he sparked Europe’s sensational fightback on the Saturday afternoon.

Having played his part in silencing the home fans on that occasion, the 45-year-old will be aiming to do the same again in the 43rd edition at Whistling Straits, where very few European fans will be in attendance due to ongoing Covid-19 travel restrictions.

“No, not really,” replied Poulter to being asked if he was any different in an away match to one on European soil. “I mean, the team shirt is the team shirt, whether it's home or away. It's being part of the team is more special than anything else.

“Obviously playing in front of home fans is pretty unique. And it's pretty inspiring to have 50,000 cheering you on as opposed to what we're going to get this week. We'll have a few of them, we will hear them. They'll come from somewhere, ex-pats or from wherever.”

While Harrington, who also picked Sergio Garcia and Shane Lowry, was always keen to have Poulter on his team, the Irishman was right to point out that his play this year had been just as important in him getting the nod as his passion for the event.

Europe's players celebrate with captain Thomas Bjorn and his vice captains after winning the 2018 Ryder Cup in France. Picture: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images.

“I feel relaxed and I feel almost slightly less pressure than if I hadn't played the way I have played,” he admitted, having produced a string of consistent performances without managing to get a win his game probably deserved at some point.

“You know, I felt with getting a call (from Harrington), I felt extremely comfortable and I didn't feel uncomfortable thinking: 'Oh, you know, I shouldn't be in that position'.

“I would love to have squeezed on to the team automatically. Could I have played an extra event here or there? Possibly, right. But, you know, I am 45, and I need to obviously, stay as fresh as I can. So there's a fine balance.

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Ian Poulter wears a post box costume as he celebrates the 2018 win in France. Picture: Eric Feferberg/AFP via Getty Images.

“I don't know how it would have worked out if the points hadn't been frozen, whether my points of finishing fourth here or wherever I finished last year that were frozen points would have added in?. But I feel that I've played good golf. And it's nice to be in that position.”

Putting has been one of his main strengths this year. “No,” he replied to being asked if he’d used the same putter throughout his Ryder Cup career. “You’re going to have a few different ones over 17 years and this one went in the bag in March and I feel comfortable with it.

“My putting stats have been good all year. And we're going to need that around that golf course. If we're going to run that golf course, you are going to have to hole putts.”

Europe have won seven of the last nine matches, but, captained by Steve Stricker on this occasion in his home state of Wisconsin, the Americans will be hoping some new blood can help them come out on top.

Open champion Collin Morikawa is among six rookies in the home ranks, joining Olympic gold medallist Xander Schauffele, FedEx Cup winner Patrick Cantlay, Daniel Berger, Scottie Scheffler and Harris English in getting their first taste of the tournament.

In contrast, Europe are heading into battle with just three newcomers in Lowry, Norwegian sensation Viktor Hovland and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, an eight-time winner on the European Tour.

“If you're gonna have six picks, then you've got a ton of options,” observed Poulter. “If you have three and you allow players to play their way on the team, the way Paddy has, he's able to add what he thinks he needs to the team dynamic.

“Six is a lot picks and they're going to find there's a different dynamic there of standing on the first tee at a Ryder Cup. They're very capable players. They've all won all big tournaments and not that they're going to be over intimidated. But they're going to feel something different, something they've never experienced before.”

Based on world rankings - seven of the the 12 players are in the top 10 - Stricker probably has the strongest US side at his disposal, but, having been on teams that have upset the odds in the past, Poulter is quietly confident he can do so again this time around.

“They have a strong team, we know that on paper, but it's match play and any player on his day can beat any player. And that's all we need to,” he said.

“Match play gives up some of the most incredible results that we've seen in any form of golf and we will see it again in a week's time. You always see shock results. This will be no different.”

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