'I will bring flair and excitement,' claims Poulter
Justin Rose has issued a warning for all those who wish to see Ian Poulter fall on the seat on his famous pants here this week. "When Ian has a point to prove," he said, "he is in the habit of going out there and proving it." It was a big statement from a young Englishman who is not normally prone to hyperbole.
Poulter, of course, has been known to – how to put this – emphasise his own qualities and, try as he may, the would-be world No 2 could not resist yesterday but list the virtues he believes he will add to Nick Faldo's team. "I think I'll bring me as a person," he said. "I'll bring flair, I'll bring excitement and I'll bring passion." He neglected to mention that he has already brought controversy, and, indeed, that he could yet bring Faldo's head on a platter should he fail to justify his selection and should Europe lose in a close one. But then, that is perhaps understandable.
It is fair to comment that very few, if any, Ryder Cup wildcard picks have raised the hackles quite like that of Ian Poulter. The story of how he did not bother travelling over from the US to the last counting tournament in Scotland when still in with a live chance of qualifying automatically is still bitterly recounted in certain locker rooms and will doubtless continue to be as the many merits of the snubbed Darren Clarke are reflected upon. Yet Poulter revealed here in a tense press conference that he has since spoken to the Ulsterman and that his words of support "did mean a lot to me".
"That's the type of guy Darren is," said the 32-year-old. "He's obviously personally very disappointed that he did not make the side. But on the other hand he's pleased for me. He told me, 'You're a very worthy member of making that side'. That was nice." Poulter also claimed that Colin Montgomerie was similarly supportive when he ran into him at a London restaurant, which is contrary to reports in one Sunday tabloid which had the pair squaring up. Said Poulter: "Monty walked past and said, 'Congratulations for making the side and all the best'. I said, 'Thank you very much'."
All very gentlemently. Still, even Poulter was hard pressed to locate any pleasantries in the outcry that greeted his call-up. In a poll at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, only one of the 32 players asked said they would have picked Poulter. He clearly doubts the legitimacy of that vote of non-confidence. "Everybody has been great to be honest," said Poulter. "I think certain people might have been pre-empted in what they said, but that's fine. I'm a big enough boy to go out and play and I'll have my role."
Nevertheless, this was not just a case of one of the strongest psyches in the game pinning back his shoulders and simply getting on with it. Poulter confessed that the days surrounding the team announcement were "very, very difficult". "I turned the phone off for a week," he said. "I was in Orlando practising and I didn't want to have to pick up my phone. You know, it meant so much to make the side and I just wanted to have a clear mind."
There will surely be only one thing on that mind (particularly as this is the one event where he does not have to worry about his wardrobe) – show the world Faldo was right to place so much value on his runner-up finish at the Open in July. Rose is certain his great friend will be up to the task. "Ian can take care of himself," he said. "I think he found that couple of weeks tough. But at the same time he's amazingly upbeat. He's come into this team believing he should be on the team, which is exactly what you want from him.
"And the fact that he's come with the mindset that he's got a point to prove is good. I could always sense that quality in him. There were times when he would say, 'Right, I'm going to go out and win in the next three weeks'. And he went out and did it."
Rose has an invested interest in this regard and not just as a fellow team-mate. Faldo has not bothered to conceal his liking for the Rose-Poulter pairing – he put them together in practice yesterday – and the duo have been similarly up front about their prospective coupling.
"Justin's excited, I'm excited," said Poulter. "We've talked about it for such a long time that we can't wait. We want to put on a good show." The reputation of Poulter and, yes, Faldo may even depend on it.
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