Can Ian Poulter Deliver Again For Europe?
IF EUROPE should go ahead and win the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, Padraig Harrington will be praised for both his captaincy and his choice of wild cards.
He had three picks and opted for Sergio Garcia, Shane Lowry and Ian Poulter, overlooking the claims of Justin Rose, Bob MacIntyre, Alex Noren and Henrik Stenson, although Stenson will be at Whistling Straits as a captain and may well be the man who replaces Harrington when the match is played in Italy in two years’ time.
The captain goes into the match with three rookies, while Steve Stricker has six first-timers in his team.
Harrington admitted that telling Rose he hadn’t made the team was one of the most difficult things he had ever had to do. You could argue that Rose has only himself to blame because he quite simply didn’t do enough to qualify automatically. And it is a fair point. He has had a poor season, failing to make it to the FedEx Cup playoffs.
It was no great surprise that Harrington named Ian Poulter as one of his wild cards for the European team to face the USA at Whistling Straits. This is a man who is part of the fabric of the contest, a golfer who has consistently been able to raise his game time and time again. And, at the age of 45, he will be expected to do so again.
It is a huge pressure, but it is one upon which the Englishman has thrived. This will his seventh Ryder Cup, and it is a measure of his reputation that this is the fifth team he has been handed a wild card.
When he puts on the European colours, his chest puffs out, his eyes bulge and he somehow finds a way to will the ball into the hole in the most unlikely circumstances.
At an age when most players might have one eye on the Champions Tour, Poulter's passion for the contest remains undimmed. But the man known as The Postman knows that he has find a way to deliver yet again against an American team who are all ranked inside the top 25 in the world - and who are all much younger, stronger and fitter than he is.
All 12 of the American team made it to the season-ending Tour Championship, while only four Europeans made it. And Poulter was not one of them. Which means that Harrington is actually taking a gamble on Poulter being able to raise his game yet again. Does he have it within him to go the well one more time?
World number one Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland and Garcia were the only Europeans to make it to East Lake earlier this month.
Harrington - and the rest of us - have to hope that this is not a Ryder Cup too far for the Englishman.
Poulter won two points out of four at Le Golf National in 2018 as Europe won 17½-10½. He has lost only six of 22 matches in six previous appearances, remains unbeaten in singles and inspired the "Miracle at Medinah" when Europe came from 10-4 down to successfully defend the trophy. That was nine years ago and the last time they won on American soil.
It was also the last time Poulter, who made his debut in 2004, played an away match for Europe. "I still feel young enough to deliver as much energy as I can,” Poulter said. "Seventeen years later we are going to give number seven a go and hopefully deliver as many points as I possibly can. I've been pretty decent with those deliveries and hopefully we can do that again."
Poulter has built a staggering reputation in an era of European domination of the biennial clash with the United States. Once again it will be put to the test when he joins the team to defend the trophy at Whistling Straits later this week.
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