The mouth that roars tones it down for Ryder Cup
Picking Ian Poulter out of a crowd may never be tougher than
this week at the Ryder Cup. In the interest of team harmony, the
Englishman known for his spiky haircut, over-the-top outfits and
saucy Twitter feed has promised to dial it back.
But only so much.
The same guy who wore pink from head to toe in front of a tough
New York crowd on the last day of a U.S. Open has already scored a
small victory for fashion by convincing European captain Colin
Montgomerie to add a dash of the color to the team uniforms – even
though it won’t be glimpsed on match days. Getting his fastidious
boss to rescind a Twitter ban turned out to be trickier still.
”What is said in the team room stays there, and that’s
absolutely fine,” Poulter said. ”Everybody needs to respect
Yet the sly grin creasing his lips a moment later suggested the
negotiations hadn’t ended there. The only boundaries Poulter
usually acknowledges are on a golf course, marked off by white
”No,” Poulter chuckled, ”I didn’t have to twist his arm. So I
will be doing the odd tweet.”
Nothing new from him as of Tuesday evening, but don’t think all
the color will be drained from the 38th edition of the cup at
Yes, the uniforms will be tasteful and some of the juiciest
material may not leak out for weeks. And, yes, the intense personal
rivalries that helped fuel the overheated spectacles of the last
decade – climaxing with the drunken debacle at Brookline in 1999 –
are mostly a thing of the past. Three European team members, after
all, now make their home in the States and a half-dozen play the
PGA Tour regularly.
But if Poulter gets the chance, he promises to light the place
”I think because we play so much golf together, we all get on a
lot better. But if anything, that’s going to intensify things,” he
said. ”I think guys are going to want to win more passionately
than before. And that can only be good.”
The Americans haven’t made him a focal point, the way his
teammates routinely do with Tiger Woods. But oddsmakers over here
took care of that for them, making Poulter the 10-1 favorite to be
the top European performer. And if the bookies are right, well,
chances are good he won’t pass up an opportunity to hog the
Poulter played defiantly well in a losing effort in 2008,
winning four of his five matches after his controversial choice as
a captain’s pick by Nick Faldo. He didn’t make the team four years
earlier, but jabbed the American players nonetheless after his
side’s biggest victory ever by scattering tees with the winning
margin printed on the side – Europe 18 1/2, USA 9 1/2 – on the
driving range at a tournament in Ireland just two weeks later.
None of it surprises teammates who recall how hard a
late-blooming Poulter scraped to get to the top. When he was a
struggling club pro at Chesfield Downs, the club manager thought
his prospects of making any tour were so poor that he made Poulter
use his own vacation days to play in local tournaments.
After he won a forgettable event called the Panshanger Classic,
Poulter returned to the shop and set the trophy on the counter. The
manager promptly told him to remove it, then wrote Poulter up with
a warning. To almost no one’s surprise, Poulter walked off the job
a week later and never looked back.
Finding the motivation to beat the Americans came easier. He
remembered walking the fairways at the Belfry as a 17-year-old in
1993, swept up in the raw emotion that exploded on every side of
him after Europe’s Nick Faldo made a hole-in-one.
”To hear the roar … I felt back then, I would love to be on
the other side of the ropes with the Ryder Cup team taking on the
USA. To be able to do that, to go out there and do it
passionately,” he said, ”means an awful lot.”
Europe has won or held onto the cup five of the last seven
meetings. For many of those, the most serious disagreements have
been over the grooves on some players’ irons and the slights have
been limited to wine stains on the autographed menus the teams
exchanged at dinners.
Poulter’s two previous appearance with the Euros came on foreign
soil. His wardrobe may be muted and freedom of expression limited,
but have no doubts that if the locals celebrate something –
anything – Poulter will be in the thick of things.
”There’s a lot of blue on the golf course,” he reported back
after a morning practice session,” and that’s great for us.
”There’s going to be more and more. The excitement is going to
be great. The electricity is going to be huge and, hopefully,” he
added, ”I can give them some electricity back.”
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated
Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org