Ian Poulter on Ryder Cup victory: 'I still get goosebumps talking about it... few people experience that'

His 18th-hole heroics on the Saturday set the momentum for Europe's unbelievable victory. He tells Kevin Garside that he will treasure that day at Medinah no matter how many majors he wins

A fleeting weekend back in the UK basking in the Ryder Cup afterglow. Ian Poulter accepts it might always be like this, an inexhaustible pulse of joy issuing along a private feelgood frequency whenever Medinah Country Club is mentioned. Poulter was in the house at the ExCeL Arena on Sunday, a stellar representative of the glorious 12 at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year carnival. In any other year his five-birdie salvo on that Saturday evening, and the pivotal role it played in shifting momentum away from an American team that had led 10-4, might have seen him shortlisted for the individual honour. It was that big a moment, a sporting episode sufficient in scale to define not only a contest but maybe a career.

Unless Poulter knocks down the flags at a major championship in the coming years, he is unlikely to produce anything to better a Ryder Cup catalogue that was impressive enough before he pitched up in Chicago. Poulter has enjoyed a fine season. Three top 10s in the majors and a second World Golf Championship victory, coming from behind to win in China, is a reminder that there is more to his game than a psychotic stare and a granite chin in team combat. The countdown to the first major of 2013, the Masters at Augusta in April, has already begun in Poulter's mental log, but he understands that there will always be a desire to talk about Medinah.

He is still processing the details himself. He has yet to fully comprehend how the magic played out, explain how he did what he did. But he knows how it felt. "How it happened I don't know. Putts like that, shots like that in those situations just inspire me. The want to hole them is just beyond belief. It all happens in slow motion. As I'm round the front side of the hole [18th] looking at the putt I pan around from left to right and I see each one of the US team standing around watching. I see the European players, captain, vice captains, caddies. They were all there. It was a surreal moment to stand up, roll it in and see what it meant to the whole team. That was the moment that allowed everybody to go out the next day in the singles and execute the most amazing comeback in the Ryder Cup."

Poulter was paired with Rory McIlroy. They followed Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, whose point from a narrow victory over Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker was equally valuable yet reduced to a mere detail by the Poulter pyrotechnics. With six to play Zach Johnson and Jason Duffner led by two holes. They birdied three of the final five holes yet still lost, swamped by the zoned-in one from Stevenage. "I get goosebumps even talking about it. Not many people get an opportunity to live through something like that. It is as if everything suddenly makes sense. I barely needed to look at that putt [on 18]. It felt like I was going to hole it. I could see the line so clearly. When you are under that intense pressure, when you have that heightened sense of concentration you can see lines and it just happens. How you explain it I don't know. Perhaps it's best not to try. You can overthink this stuff.

"There is a wonderful picture in the European Tour Yearbook which captures the moment when I holed that putt. I have turned to the team and Jose [Maria Olazabal] is standing there with an expression on his face that is some kind of release. In the background the whole team is jumping for joy, fist-pumping. We were still four points down. The deficit going into Sunday was greater than it was on Saturday morning yet it seemed way better. We had no momentum for two and a half sessions but 10-6 didn't feel that bad."

The team talk on Saturday night took care of itself. On Friday after a 3-1 rout in the afternoon four-balls, which gave America a 5-3 overnight lead, there was a sense of helplessness, as if the match were sliding inexorably out of Europe's control. Keegan Bradley was holing everything, performing, in fact, the Poulter role for America while Europe's talisman sat out the afternoon session. He would be idle no more after that. "Jose gave us the hairdryer treatment on Friday night. He was really pissed off. He knew we could perform better. He was very disappointed. They were clearly outplaying us. He was very vocal that night. The team was anxious. On Saturday morning it was no better. Everybody was looking anxious and people were beginning to think Sunday would be a no-show as far as we were concerned.

"Saturday night was so different, calm even. Everybody was fairly relaxed. We discussed the pin locations for the following day. We discussed the team sheet, how everybody was matched up. We loved the way we had gone strong early in the pairings. We really did think it was achievable, to get after them early and see if the boys at the back could bring it home. Those first five blue points were a massive turning point. I don't know the US mentality but I can only assume that at 10-4 it was all over in their minds, more a matter of how many they were going to win by. And then we get it to 11-10 in our favour on Sunday. That must have been massively damaging and mentally affected some of their guys coming down the stretch. That is what you saw."

Poulter's victory over Webb Simpson came in that first rush of Sunday blue, one of eight in the singles on a final day when the dramatic epicentre shifted along the European line to Justin Rose and finally Martin Kaymer. In all Poulter contributed four points to the victory total of 14.5, winning all his matches. He was not finished there. He would embellish his season further with the most significant tournament victory of his career at the WGC HSBC Champions at Mission Hills, China. Starting the final day four adrift of joint leaders Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen, Poulter rattled off a second successive 65, finishing with an up-and-down at the last to win by two shots.

"I had three weeks off after the Ryder Cup to relax then went over to Shanghai and finished fourth in the BMW Masters so I was feeling on top of the world. To shoot 65, 65 and come through the pack on Saturday and Sunday was really nice. It was a fairly heavy leaderboard. I don't know that many of my wins have involved coming from nine shots back with two rounds to play in a field as top loaded as that. It was a great win and really nice to back up the Ryder Cup with a great tournament victory."

Poulter flew into the UK early on Saturday morning, enjoying a night out with the boys before taking his place among Britain's sporting glitterati the following evening at the BBC ball in East London. What a year for British sport, he observed, stepping back from his role in it. "What an incredible Olympics, probably the best sporting year in our history. I just wanted to come over and enjoy the show. Try picking a winner out of that lot."

Europe's golfers lost out in the team award to the Olympian and Paralympian athletes. The vote of those who stood behind the 18th green on that mad Saturday at Medinah was cast that very night in Poulter's favour. He stood up when it mattered and took his team kicking and screaming into the last day of competition when none thought victory possible. That is all the reward he will ever need.

McIlroy’s lie-in caused no alarms for Poulter

Where's Rory? Poulter was on the putting green when he learned McIlroy was missing on the final morning of the Ryder Cup. "Someone came up to me and said 'you know Rory is teeing off after you and he is not here yet'. But hey, look. If any player can pitch up without a warm-up it's Rory." Indeed. McIlroy arrived via police patrol car 10 minutes before his tee-time against Keegan Bradley. There was never any doubt in Poulter's mind that McIlroy would deliver. "The kid is so talented he doesn't need to warm up. He is very, very good and was able to pull off one of the best wins of the week against Bradley, who was their cheerleader, their man. There was nobody more vocal in that US side than Keegan. He was the one pumping the crowd and pumping his partner up, getting everybody going. We had never seen that before. Even Tiger was at it on Sunday morning. He grabbed hold of Webb Simpson around the neck and obviously told him to go and get stuck into me. So I blew Tiger a little kiss. It was that kind of day."

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
Arts and Entertainment
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game