Why Poulter had to get a Ryder Cup pick

Opinion

At the age of 42 and with his career going the wrong way, Ian Poulter has played his way back onto Europe's Ryder Cup side. Mark Townsend outlines why The Postman is vital to Europe's chances in Paris

A couple of years ago I asked Lee Westwood who, out of everyone he has played alongside, was the most confident player he had ever come across.

Before the words had barely left my mouth, he replied: “Poulter, without a doubt.”

The swing might not be the powerhouse of many, we get the occasional shank, and he has said some silly things over the years but, cometh the hour, cometh The Postman. Most of us thought his Ryder Cup exploits were behind him, we should never have doubted him.

Here are my five reasons Poulter was nailed on for one of Thomas Bjorn’s captain’s picks…

Gleneagles Ian Poulter

1. We should never forget Medinah

After what he did six years ago there is an argument to say that he should get a free pass into the Ryder Cup until he’s pushing up daisies.

Luckily this is repeated almost daily on Sky Sports so we get to re-live the greatest single finish to any Ryder Cup performance in the history of the competition.

Playing with our top player, Rory McIlroy, the pair were 2 down thru 12 against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson. The Americans barely put a foot wrong, Dufner went first at the 18th and made his birdie, but it still wasn’t enough as Poulter closed them out with five straight birdies.

I still wonder how anyone can keep a birdie run like that going just from a mental perspective. I still wonder how the putt at 16 dropped.

“It’s intense, it’s very intense. I don’t know, he just gets that look in his eye, especially when he makes one of those big putts, and he’s fist pumping, and he’ll just look right through you.”

And that was from his playing partner.

2. You want form? He’s got form

We’ve all leapt on Thomas Bjorn saying he wants in-form players on his side. So, rather than just simply looking at how he’s played in his last event, consider where he was 18 months ago.

Thanks to Brian Gay and his wife’s mathematical calculations he regained his PGA Tour card and then let loose.

In March last year he was outside the top 200 in the world. While everyone else was playing the WGC Match Play Poulter was missing the cut down in Puerto Rico. He was also out of the major loop so making any inroads was even trickier.

Now look at him. He’s a PGA Tour winner again, victorious in Houston to grab a last-minute spot at The Masters, and up to World No. 33.

Houston Open Poulter

3. But what about Gleneagles?

What about it? He played with a rookie, Stephen Gallacher, in the opening fourballs and quickly discovered how potent Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed are together.

He was then back with McIlroy and they tied with Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler, helped by Poulter’s famous chip-in at 15 for a half, and then got another half against Webb Simpson.

So he lost one match in three.

There are two things about this. One bad Ryder Cup doesn’t make you a bad Ryder Cup player . We all obsess about records – I’m about to do it again a bit further down – but Larry Nelson won his first nine matches over the years and then lost three from four in 1987. Is he suddenly ordinary?

Seve’s first Ryder Cup in 1979? Played 5 Won 1 Lost 4 Halved 0.

Also, Poulter was injured in Scotland. Speaking last year his doctor Ara Suppiah explained: “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 to allow him to play.”

4. He’ll handle any wildcard awkwardness

Some characters are a bit uncomfortable about being a wildcard. Thorbjorn Olesen said at the weekend that he thought it might help him in France that he had made the team ‘on merit’.

I’m not sure Poulter could give a monkey’s how he got on the team. In his five appearances so far he has needed the captain’s assistance on three occasions. Remember Medinah? Well most of us forget that he missed out on the automatic spots and look what happened there.

It also gave Nick Faldo the opportunity to deliver the best good-news wildcard line to Poulter in 2008:

Raquel, go and put your overcoat on – it’s time to go to the Ryder Cup.

If you’re wondering about Faldo’s mental health, Poulter’s nickname at school was Rodney after Del Boy’s younger sibling.

Poulter and Faldo

5. Look at the numbers

If you were sat in the team room, even as a peer, and you see Poulter stride out, chest puffed and with that look in his eyes then you could be pretty certain that he’s not going to leave much out there.

He’s played 18 times, won 12, halved two and lost just four times. That amounts to a point percentage of 0.72, better than Seve (0.59) and Olazabal (0.66).

Another nice little bonus is that he’s never lost a singles. Could you imagine, 12-12 and Poulter in the mix. He’s played at 9 or 10 in the singles three times already, he was shoved up the order at Medinah for obvious reasons, so maybe we’ll be treated to one last Ryder Cup hurrah. He deserves it.

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