Dressed for success, Poulter looks to make major strides

The young Englishman's fancy pants have often overshadowed his golf but the playboy is really just a family man who takes the game seriously, he tells James Corrigan at Augusta

Newsflash: Ian Poulter will wear a silly pair of trousers today. No Pulitzer there, then. Indeed, while we are at it, it may as well be revealed that Darren Clarke will chomp upon a Havana, Tiger Woods will play his practice round before the milkman has plugged in his kettle and Colin Montgomerie's pram will be minus two dozen toys by twilight.

Newsflash: Ian Poulter will wear a silly pair of trousers today. No Pulitzer there, then. Indeed, while we are at it, it may as well be revealed that Darren Clarke will chomp upon a Havana, Tiger Woods will play his practice round before the milkman has plugged in his kettle and Colin Montgomerie's pram will be minus two dozen toys by twilight.

Whoops, sorry, almost forgot - Monty is not here. Poulter most definitely is, though, and there is no danger of us ever being allowed to forget that. You could tell as much as soon as he catwalked out of the locker-room on Monday with a pair of strides that evoked images of a bizarre lovechild of Rupert The Bear and Jesper Parnevik and, if they did not grab the attention, a woman on his arm who surely would.

Fanny Sunesson is the only female member of the World Caddie Hall of Fame - an award akin to being the only weed on the Augusta fairways, or, at a push, the only black man in the members' room. As Nick Faldo's better half through the major years, she is also a route to the headlines that is more 100-yard par three than 600-yard dogleg.

Perhaps that is a little cynical as the Swede - who recently escaped a life sentence of standing by her man for the blessed freedom of marriage - is also a good bag-carrier, a dream replacement actually for Poulter's usual caddie, Mick Donaghy, whose wife has had the temerity to give birth in Masters week. "Fanny's the perfect stand-in," said Poulter, "It's a huge tournament for me and I wanted somebody good. It'll be a bit of a rush to get used to each other mind you, for me to get to know her, and her to get to know me."

That may surprise Sunesson, as she probably thinks she knows all there is to know about the 29-year-old, as does seemingly everybody else with even a cursory interest in the game. After all, is not Ian Poulter simply what meets the eye? Namely, a Milton Keynes mannequin forever putting himself in the shop window with an increasingly bizarre range of get-ups?

Well, no, he so obviously isn't. "Maybe people forget how good a golfer I am sometimes," he said a few weeks ago at The Players Championship as he took time from his meticulous schedule on the Sawgrass driving range. "Maybe they just see the strides, the hair, the [Robert] Pires goatee, the tops and the shoes. But I also think that they're coming around to how well I can play. You don't become top 50 in the world by wearing trousers."

And you do not amass some £3.5m in five years and own mansions in Hertfordshire and Florida, not to mention five cars. Ah, a playboy then? Not a bit of it. "People also might forget that I am a family man," said the world No43, who in a matter of weeks last autumn was a Ryder Cup conqueror and then won his biggest tournament to date, the Volvo Masters at Valderrama. "I might have a wild side with my dress sense but that's where it ends."

Where it will end today - or, probably not - will be at the traditional par-three event in which Poulter claims: "I will tread the line between fashion and respectability with my usual delicacy." He confesses, however: "I do have something up my sleeve" [or should that be the trouser leg?], and early reports suggested that it will be based on Payne Stewart's revered plus-fours, with perhaps more than a hint of the Arsenal.

That would be no surprise, as there is always more than a hint of Highbury about this fervent Gooner. He proudly wears a club logo on his shoes, makes regular trips to the Radlett training ground to be treated by the physio, Gary Lewin, has recently invested in a racehorse with Ray Parlour and Francis Jeffers, and this week will count another famous ex-player as a guest in one of the two houses he has rented - at considerable expense - in the neighbourhood for the week. "Yeah, Lee Dixon is coming over as are a number of friends just to make it really enjoyable," he said. "And not forgetting, of course, the family."

In fact, the Poulter clan has been a sight to behold here these past few days and no, not because sartorial inelegance happens to be hereditary. His father, Terry, played with him in the competitors' "open day" on Sunday - when Sunesson struck a worried figure as Poulter proceeded to hit the ball left of sideways - and they will go on cutting a familiar view Stateside as his fianceé, Katie, and his two toddlers relocate for an extended stay in the new residence in Lake Nona. "The kids love it in Florida, but I suppose someday we will have to make a choice where we're going to live full-time," he said. "But that's in the future. There's no point in worrying about it now."

It is not something Poulter does - worry. When asked to comment on Faldo's recent comments that it is about time that one of these batch of dashing young Europeans stepped up to the plate and contested a major, he simply shrugged his shoulders. "It'll happen, and I think it'll happen at Augusta. I'm pretty sure one of us will be in contention come the back nine on Sunday," he said. "Look, people always talk about the Europeans and the recent void in majors. But just see how many majors Tiger [Woods], Ernie [Els], Phil [Mickelson], Vijay [Singh] and Retief [Goosen] have carved up between them in the last five years and you will find that there's very few left for the rest of us. It's just a case of being patient and letting it happen. And it will, I believe. Sooner rather than later."

Alas, "later" may very well be the case for Poulter, who so far has covered himself in major divots rather than major glory as he has yet to finish in a top 10.

"Hey, I haven't played in that many," said Poulter, instantly bristling when challenged about a mediocre record. "See how many majors Lee [Westwood], Darren [Clarke], Monty [Colin Montgomerie], Padraig [Harrington] and even Sergio [Garcia] have played in and have a go at them, not me. I'll get myself in the frame soon. You can count on it."

You can also count on Poulter causing a stir here this week. With his trousers, most probably. Although there are strides of a different sort that Poulter should soon be making.

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