Whisper it gently but there is a strong chance that Ian Poulter, Mr Ryder Cup, has played his last match for Europe. The basic facts aren’t overly promising for Poulter – he turned 40 earlier this year, is down to 85th in the world and his last victory came at the HSBC Champions in 2012.
This season he has had one strong week, when third in a weakened field in Puerto Rico when everyone else was playing in the WGC-Match Play in Texas, and his last two starts have resulted in blank weekends.
Now he is out for four months with an arthritic joint in his right foot which has left him struggling to walk or practise. The diagnosis would take him up to the matches at Hazeltine and, while he could get a captain’s pick from Darren Clarke, it seems unlikely. And, strange to say, it might make Clarke’s job that much easier with a host of Cup veterans outside the automatic spots.
“I am obviously disappointed to be in this situation, especially during a Ryder Cup year,” Poulter said. “Right now, rest and rehab take priority.”
His doctor Ara Suppiah added: “Ian has been hampered by an arthritic joint in his right foot for the best part of two and a half years. The condition has progressed rapidly over the last year warranting numerous cortisone shots (within therapeutic limits) to allow him to play.
“Further cortisone shots run the real risk of thinning the bones and stress fractures, which might require treatment in a cast and significant time away from the game.
“We feel that the best option at this stage is to take some time off to allow complete recovery and rehabilitation (including customised orthotics and modification of footwear) of his foot. This will give him the best chance of returning to the game sooner and preventing further deterioration of the affected joint.”
So is that it for The Postman who famously told Sky’s Tim Barter “I will deliver a point” ahead of the Monday singles at Celtic Manor in 2010? Taken slightly aback he was asked to repeat his bold statement, which he did before giving Matt Kuchar a good shoeing 5&4. One of 12 victories in 18 matches, there were also two halves.
That amounts to a win percentage of 0.72, better than Seve (0.59), Olazabal (0.66) and Faldo (0.54).
At Medinah in 2012 he birdied the last five holes in the Saturday fourballs to edge past a previously unbeaten Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson and, what had been a six-point deficit finished as 10-6. The following day Europe somehow stole the victory and a Ryder Cup legend was confirmed.
Poulter spooked the Americans in Illinois, he played his opening tee shot to a cacophony of noise, a la Bubba, and then settled down to his favourite hobby of beating the Americans in their own backyard.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that, four years previous, he top scored at Valhalla after justifying Nick Faldo’s pick in some style. The way Poulter (who was nicknamed Rodney at school) received the good news from Faldo might have been odd – “Raquel, go and put your overcoat on; it’s time to go to The Ryder Cup” – but the thinking was sound. Poulter delivered four out of a possible five points in an otherwise forgettable few days.
There is every chance that Poulter will be in the States as one of Clarke’s assistants – last week the skipper named Padraig Harrington, Thomas Bjorn and Paul Lawrie as his assistants with two more to follow. Poulter could easily take up one of those slots.
And at some point down the line he will captain the side. Maybe France 2018 will come too soon, and he will no doubt fancy his chances of playing his way on to the team, which would leave the opportunity to captain at Whistling Straits two years later. Not bad for someone who pocketed £1 a lesson from the juniors at Leighton Buzzard.