The last time Ian Poulter was at Oakland Hills he threw his shoes at someone, which does not sound completely out of character until one attempts to comprehend the esteem in which he holds his footwear. Perhaps only Imelda could ever understand.
Poulter confesses to having "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds in my wardrobe" and when he went to Grosvenor Square the other week to have his US visa renewed, "I just happened to find enough time to pop in to Harvey Nicks to buy five more pairs of Dior". So what made him hurl his pride and Footjoy at one lucky supporter in 2004? The Ryder Cup. And to Poulter that is as precious as any piece of Italian leather covering his tootsies. Well, almost.
Nick Faldo would certainly testify to how obsessed Poulter is about making his team for next month's biennial dust-up in Kentucky. Within a few hours of finishing second to Padraig Harrington at the Open two weeks ago, Poulter sent a, "Did you see that?", type of text to the Europe captain and received a call straight back. Faldo congratulated him on earning England's highest Open placing since he, himself, had come second in 1993 and told him that now was the time to crack on. That was all Poulter needed to hear. Faldo wants him on the team but cannot guarantee him a wild card and come the qualification deadline definitely does not want Poulter back on the blower.
"I've five weeks left to make the side automatically and that's what I'll be all out to do," he said last week. "I don't want to rely on a pick. Nick is going to have enough pressure as it is when it comes to his two choices without me telephoning in before the pick. I am looking forward to these next two weeks to make a big push."
Last night in Akron he was in full grunt mode as he tried to build on his encouraging start to the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. While there were some big figures in his sights – Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson were giving the event some lustre in the absence of Tiger Woods – it was a frame rather closer to home with the most alluring target on his back.
Poulter is £27,500 behind his best friend, Justin Rose, on the Ryder Cup standings and the plan is to earn enough in Ohio to do that piece of leapfrogging and then to cement his berth at the US PGA Championship which begins in Detroit on Thursday. A shoe or two more may be sacrificed in the name of celebration on his return to Oakland Hills if that particular mission succeeds. "You know, that week in 2004 was one of the most memorable I've ever had, certainly on a golf course, and it will be nice to go back to a layout I know, that I've played well on and, of course, that I have so many good memories about," he said. "That was one hell of an experience and I will be drawing off those positive vibes."
That should be a chilling thought for any of his rivals on the fairways or indeed on that points list as Poulter is very much a "confidence player" to whom the pounding of his heart is as vital as the rhythm in his putting stroke. Before venturing out at Firestone yesterday he almost fell over laughing when asked if he was suffering any hangover after his heroics on the Southport links. "No way am I flat – I'm buzzing," said the 32-year-old. "I found it a really long week after the Open, just itching to get back after finishing so well at Birkdale. I'm still charging."