With one mighty strike into the bleachers Ian Poulter did for his reputation in America. The hearty welcome in the Orlando clubhouse he calls home is gone. The great Yankophile of European golf walked into the house of baseball and sprayed its walls with detritus. Babe who?
In an act of pure golfing Vaudeville Poulter trashed the national game of his adopted country. He also advocated his own talents as a sports pyschologist. After his anti-baseball rhetoric ahead of European golf’s season finale in Dubai, Poulter might have need of his own services when US immigration has done with him.
“I’ve never watched a full game of baseball. I walk out after about five innings. It bores me tearless. You want to sit there for four and a half hours eating hot dogs and a Coke? Come on, really? I’m sorry. I’ve got season tickets at the basketball. That’s over in two hours. I can go back home then.”
Poulter was responding to questions about the continued migration of European players to America after Ryder Cup team-mates Martin Kaymer and Nicolas Colsaerts announced they would be accepting PGA Tour membership next year. Presumably Poulter won’t be taking them to the Florida Marlins.
With so many tournaments on both sides of the Atlantic carrying dual Europe and PGA Tour status any westward leaning is not as threatening as it might have been to European golf a decade ago. One who has no appetite for the PGA Tour, nor much for Poulter for that matter, is Paul Lawrie, who played unsuccessfully in the States for a year after his Open triumph in 1999.
Lawrie’s frank autobiography, An Open Book, ought to fill many a stocking this Christmas. In it he lands a stiff right hand on Poulter’s nose. “I wasn’t rude to either of the guys I had just beaten [in the 1999 Open Championship play-off]. I didn’t shout and scream and celebrate right in their faces. I would never be unprofessional, unlike a certain English player I could mention.
“In the Italian Open of 2002, I played the last round with Ian Poulter. I was one ahead playing the 18th but drove way out of bounds. I had driven it great all week. So who knows where that shot came from? But the ball came off a weird tangent, 50 yards from where I was aiming. I eventually made six and Ian made a three. So he won by two. That’s fine. I can handle that.
“Golf is a hard game to play sometimes. As I’m sure you have heard a million times, we lose more often than we win. So you do get used to it. But I did think his fist pumping and shouting and bawling on the green was disrespectful to me as an opponent.”
It is precisely that tension between Ryder Cup excess and strokeplay formality that Poulter is trying to negotiate. He has made quite a fist of it since the heroics of September in Chicago, where Poulter singlehandedly turned around European fortunes on Saturday night before the onslaught of Sunday. Three top-five finishes, including victory at the final world golf championship of the season in China three weeks ago, are proof of that.
“It just goes to show what kind of golf can be played when I focus my mind. I’m going to work hard inside my little head to focus as well as I do when I play Ryder Cup,” Poulter said. “It is in me. It comes out in Ryder Cup so why shouldn’t I be able to produce it week in, week out? I guess I have done that in the last three weeks. We just have to see how long we can keep it going.”
Someone at the back who was clearly not paying attention fired off a question about the fine margins that differentiate winners and losers and whether Poulter had ever sought recourse to a sports psychologist “to unleash the inner hulk”. “Do you honestly think I need a sports psychologist? Are you crazy? Wow. That’s incredible. I think people would pay me a fortune to be a sports psychologist,” he said.
Poulter, who lost out at this event to Robert Karlsson in a play-off after dropping his ‘lucky’ coin marker on his ball and taking a one-shot penalty, is paired with Branden Grace today. A 60-man elite field contests the Dubai World Tour Championship with the top 10 in the money list sharing the £2.3m bonus jackpot.
Since Rory McIlroy has already bagged the $1m (£650,000) top prize, Poulter, fifth in the rankings, is in the mix for second spot. “I’m in form and feeling like I can end the year on a high note and move up the world rankings, which would be nice. Obviously Rory has locked up the Race to Dubai but a win would definitely move me forward, which would be very pleasing.”