Poulter's bold strides back up his boast

New world No 5 is living up to his infamous 'just me and Tiger' claim. James Corrigan uncovers the man behind the loud trousers

The world now realises there has been more than one deluded soul clinging these last few years to the promise of a future featuring "just me and Tiger". But for Ian Poulter, the fantasy seems more attainable than ever after his glory in Arizona.

Two years ago this month, Poulter's infamous statement was printed in a British golfing magazine – "The trouble is I just don't rate anyone else... I haven't played to my full potential and when that happens it will be just me and Tiger." The European Tour happened to be in Dubai when Golf World hit the shelves and very soon the offending page was copied and passed along the range.

The reaction among the pros was one of hilarity mixed in with inevitable indignation. Who, exactly, did Poulter think he was? He was outside the world's top 20, had been a professional for 13 years, had not won for two years and as an average ball-striker was already reckoned an overachiever. The claim was as preposterous as his trousers. And didn't his peers let him know it.

Even Tiger Woods, himself, got in on the ribbing, marching on to the range the next time he saw Poulter and saying: "Morning, No 2." Poulter took it all on his designer-stubbled chin, just like he had the rest of the baiting, and before too long he and Tiger had established their own little routine. "Morning No 2," would go the greeting. "Morning No 1," would go Poulter's response.

Well, when and if Woods returns from his indefinite break the exchange will not sound so nearly as contrived – if contrived at all. At No 5, Poulter could be but one more big win from climbing into the world's top two. In the 24 months since, Poulter has backed up the self-praise with self-improvement. Runner-up placings in The Open and The Players (aka, the fifth major) as well as top-point scorer status in the last Ryder Cup; the summit-seeker was on the ascent.

Dove Mountain at last saw him peak as he beat his compatriot Paul Casey to win England its first World Golf Championship and thus become the country's most prestigious champion since Nick Faldo in the Masters 14 years ago. Not the worst time to reflect on declarations past.

"I think everybody chuckled slightly when he said it," commented Casey, who left Tucson as runner-up for the second time in as many years. "But deep down I think a lot of us knew how hard he works and knew that it wasn't that much of an outrageous statement. If Ian believed that – and he does – then there's no reason why he couldn't get to that spot. For me it's not about talent, it's about work ethic and belief. And Ian's worked incredibly hard."

There is no doubt, Poulter is self-made. There was no American university education for this son of a market trader who worked selling Mars bars as an assistant pro at a public course and turned pro as a teenager with a handicap of four. As he failed to win his card, year after year, few gave him a prayer, let alone anything as substantial as a break. But he stuck at it and, eventually, European Tour status arrived. So did the trophies. Poulter lifted silverware in each of his first five seasons and made his Ryder Cup debut in 2004. It wasn't enough. Stateside was where it was at and the young father was not about to park his fancy slacks on his laurels.

"This is why this, my first American win, means so much," said Poulter, after collecting the £900,000 first prize. "Six years of hard work, changing my residency, moving my family across to live in America ... to finally win over here just means everything. It's just so satisfying to be able to finally say 'I'm a winner on the PGA Tour'."

He is not any old winner, neither. Not Mr Nondescript from Nowheresville. Poulter has always possessed the ability to grasp the headlines, although for so long that was because of what he said, or originally because of what he wore. He first became known to the world at large with his Union Flag trousers at the 2004 Open at Troon. Ever since the one-on-one interviews have focused on the strides he wore in his profession rather than the strides he took. The hecklers, meanwhile, have remained just as fixated.

"I think I've had an interesting ride from a lot of people's point of view of how I present myself, as opposed to how well I can actually perform," he said. "So I guess it's very pleasing to be in this position now. No 5 in the world stands for so much more than what I wear on the golf course."

To be fair, Poulter has perpetuated the sartorial myth, setting up his own design company. In many respects, however, that is merely the 34-year-old doing it for himself, just as he does everything for himself. While he is one of the very few players in the world's top 50 who doesn't employ a mind coach, he is the only one who doesn't use a swing coach either. Poulter videos himself in practice, plays it back and makes the adjustments accordingly. It is one of the skills garnered from his traditional PGA training.

Yet, there are some things that can't be taught and, although he has put in the hours on the practice greens at his gated-community home in Orlando, his touch on and around the putting surface has always been his meal ticket. On Sunday, he ate up the greens, spitting out Casey as he did so. "My short game this week has been as good as it's ever been," said Poulter. "In fact the last 12 months it's been up there with the very best of them."

This quality establishes the Englishman as a clear and present danger in the forthcoming majors. With his Ryder Cup berth already secured, this has to be the next step for Poulter. And for Britain. With three members in the top six, there is no reason why the majorless run should continue. Indeed, with this level of representation in the elite, the 11-year drought is beginning to look absurd.

"An Englishman hasn't won a major for a long time," said Poulter. "It's about time the guys who have put themselves in positions four, five and six in the world stepped up to the plate and delivered on that." Living up to your outrageous promise and the outrageous promises you set. It's what Poulter is all about.

World rankings: Latest standings

1......... Tiger Woods (US)......... 12.60 ave pts

2......... Steve Stricker (US)......... 7.93

3......... Phil Mickelson (US)......... 7.68

4......... Lee Westwood (Eng)......... 7.04

5......... Ian Poulter (Eng)......... 6.31

6......... Paul Casey (Eng)......... 6.03

7......... Jim Furyk (US)......... 5.35

8......... Martin Kaymer (Ger)......... 5.30

9......... Rory McIlroy (NI)......... 5.00

10......... Padraig Harrington (Ire)......... 4.93

Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Sport
Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
Sport
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?