SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES: Ian Poulter said he relishes the prospect of the Americans targeting him at the Ryder Cup as they attempt to end a 25-year wait for a victory on European soil at France’s Le Golf National.
Poulter returns for his sixth Ryder Cup appearance after serving as a vice-captain for the 2016 defeat at Hazeltine following his plunge down the world rankings.
Poulter’s starring role in the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ in 2012 guaranteed his place in Ryder Cup folklore, with US players in the past having made no secret of their desire to beat the charismatic Englishman.
“I take it as a huge compliment, I think, more than anything else,” said Poulter, who holds an impressive 12-4 with two halved career record and is unbeaten in five singles matches.
“It’s a daunting position to be in to know that everyone really wants to take you down, but quite frankly, I want to take them down just as much.
“That’s why this week is so special. You can be friends week-in, week-out and be good friends week-in, week-out, but when it comes to the Ryder Cup, there’s something extra special there, and it means so much to want to win and have to win.”
Beset by injury and a precipitous dip in form, Poulter briefly dropped outside the world’s top 200 in early 2017 for the first time in 17 years.
But the 2008 British Open runner-up has worked his way back from “the low of lows” and earned his first win in almost six years at April’s Houston Open.
Difficult being vice-captain
“When you are, you know, at the low of lows, and that wasn’t that long ago, there’s a little voice in the back of your head that says: ‘You might not get back to as good as you was.’
“But I was at a dinner in December 2016, and I was asked a question on stage at a PGA dinner: ‘What’s left for me in golf?’
“I answered the question, ‘I feel I’ve got more wins in me.’ And I said then, ‘I’m going to make the team in Paris.’
“That has been a goal for the last 18, 20 months. It has been something which has kept me going from a motivational standpoint.”
Poulter was one of five vice-captains assisting Darren Clark two years ago, and he admitted it was tough not being out on the course as Europe slid to a 17-11 loss.
“It was difficult being vice-captain last time, knowing how much I’ve helped the team in the past and I wanted to help the team in any way I could, so vice-captain was a great role,” said Poulter. “But I felt this time around, I really wanted to make the team.”
Despite his formidable Ryder Cup record, he was frank when he insisted he would willingly sacrifice personal success for the sake of the team.
“Of course. 100%,” said Poulter. “It’s always about the team, and however you go about putting that trophy in (captain) Thomas (Bjorn’s) hands, it would be a very proud moment to be part of that team.
“So we win together, we lose together. But as long as we win as a team, that’s all that really matters.”