Ian Poulter needs self-belief to recover from nightmare year
Ian Poulter is not a man who could ever be accused of lacking in confidence. In almost two decades as a tour professional, it has been the Englishman’s unbounded self-belief that has been his biggest asset and it is that attribute he will need to fall back on as he endeavours to dig himself out of the biggest rut he has found himself since he turned professional back in the early 1990s.
This season much has been written about Tiger Woods making his long-awaited comeback after 17 months out through injury but it is should be remembered the 14-time Major champion is by no means the only prominent 40-something-year-old golfer who is attempting to claw his way back from the abyss.
Question marks surround Woods’ great rival Phil Mickelson, who has not won a PGA Tour title since 2013 and who over the winter endured not one but two operations to rectify a hernia.
Old Man Time appears to be catching up with Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood is edging ever closer to losing his top-50 status, but the player in the most precarious position of them all is Poulter.
The popular Englishman has just endured a nightmare 2016 season during which he dropped outside the top-175 on the world rankings after spending five months on the sidelines nursing a painful arthritic toe.
Guaranteed places in the Majors are but a distant memory for the former Ryder Cup player and even his PGA Tour card is in jeopardy as he plays on a medical extension and needs to make around £175,000 from his next six starts in order to retain his playing privileges.
‘Worst year of my life’
Times are tough as the man himself freely admits. “2016 was the worst year of my life,” Poulter told a small group of journalists ahead of receiving the PGA’s annual Special Achievement award in London just before Christmas.
“It has been very challenging, there’s no getting away from it. My toe was so painful in the early part of last year that at one tournament I found myself walking on the side of my foot and you can’t play golf like that.
“We’ve also had some issues off the course but they are nearly sorted so hopefully I can clear the rubbish out of my brain and start playing well again. “Now my overwhelming focus is simply to be on getting out there and enjoying it rather than worrying about my status.
“The hunger’s still there,” he added. “In fact, I’m probably more hungry now to show that I can still play. I think my good shots now are better than they have ever been, but I’m eager to prove that’s the case rather than just talk about it.”
Ryder Cup hero
Following Poulter’s 40-minute chat with the media we were then treated to a command performance by the Englishman during which he regaled his 1000-plus audience with tales of his early days as a PGA assistant before making it to the big time and forging his reputation as one of Europe’s most influential Ryder Cup performers.
It was captivating stuff and provided ample proof that it was not just Woods who was badly missed in 2016. Poulter would be the first to admit he operates in an entirely different league to Woods but he is still box office and that is an increasingly rare commodity in an age in which identikit tour professionals have become the norm.
It was for that reason that it was splendid to see that his recent travails do not seen to have not dampened his colossal spirit. Indeed, right at the end of his entertaining Q&A session with Dougie Donnelly, he came out with a classic Poulter statement which resonated both with the crowd and with those of us would have followed his career with more than a passing interest.
“I will win again in 2017,” he insisted. “I will be in the next Ryder Cup team in 2018 and we will win the trophy back.”
It will be interesting to see how it pans out.