Poulter ready to answer his critics

By Associated PressSeptember 17, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupLOUISVILLE, Ky. ' Forget the outrageous wardrobe, the gelled-up hair, the hilarious impersonations. At this Ryder Cup, Ian Poulter will be judged solely on what he does with his clubs.
 
Hit a bunch of errant shots? That would surely give credence to those who already consider Poulter to be the Lehman Brothers of the European portfolio.
 
Sink a bunch of clutch putts? Poulter could giddily tell all his critics to go jump in one of those lakes at Valhalla Golf Club.
 
Certainly, no one is under more scrutiny in bluegrass country than the flamboyant Englishman.
 
Ian Poulter
Ian Poulter practices Wednesday at Valhalla. (Getty Images)
Ill bring flair, Ill bring excitement, and Ill bring passion, Poulter said Wednesday, hardly backing down from the challenge. Ill do my bit for the team this week. Im really looking forward to it.
 
Poulter is one of the most unlikely members of either team, chosen by European captain Nick Faldo with one of his two discretionary picks.
 
The media on the other side of the Atlantic tore into Faldo, claiming the captain passed over the most deserving Darren Clarke because of his friendship with Poulter. Even the American captain, Paul Azinger, was stunned that Clarke was left off the team.
 
The fact that Poulter skipped his final chance to qualify automatically, choosing to play in a big-money FedExCup tournament in Boston rather than a European Tour event in Scotland, only fueled speculation that Faldo had guaranteed his buddy a spot on the team no matter where he played.
 
Colin Montgomerie, a longtime stalwart of the European team who didnt get selected this year, either, sarcastically asked if Poulter had a hot line to the captain that no one else possessed. Poulter lashed back, swearing that he didnt know he was on the team until Faldo called him just before the official announcement.
 
I was gobsmacked, to be honest, Poulter said. That was a difficult week. I didnt know which way the phone call was going to go and I was waiting in anticipation all morning until I got it. Yeah, I was very, very, relieved.
 
Now that hes here, Poulter does seem more at ease, though he sure looked out of place wearing the earth-toned outfit the Europeans picked out for Wednesdays practice round.
 
As he walked away from the 12th tee, someone more accustomed to seeing Poulter wearing flashier colors yelled out, Hey, Ian, wish you were wearing pink today?
 
I am wearing pink, Poulter replied with the timing of a standup comedian. You just cant see it.
 
That brought out plenty of laughter from the gallery.
 
But Poulters record is a more serious matter.
 
Other than a runner-up finish in the British Open ' his best showing in a major ' this has been a largely forgettable year. Splitting time between the PGA and Europeans tours, he hasnt finished higher than ninth in any other event. He didnt even make the cut in his last two tournaments.
 
As for Ryder Cup experience, thats largely nil as well. Poulters only other appearance was at Oakland Hills in 2004, where he split his two matches and spent most of the time cheering on the Europeans to their most dominating win on American soil.
 
So whats he doing on the team this time around? Why not Clarke, who was on the last five Ryder Cup teams and had won twice in the past four months on the European Tour?
 
Faldo was clearly impressed by Poulters showing in the pressure cooker of Royal Birkdale, where he actually pulled into a tie for the final-round lead before Padraig Harrington pulled away with brilliant shots down the stretch.
 
How I played, certainly in the Open, was a big factor, Poulter said. To play like I did, as well as I did down the back nine, that must have been a factor in him making the decision.
 
Poulter also takes issue with those who question his overall record, saying hes actually had a very, very solid year.
 
Its kind of been one of those ones where I havent finished a lot off, he said. I kind of got into a nice mind-set in the Open. I was very, very focused, and I was able to ride that focus and keep it going for four rounds. Its something I havent done for all four rounds this year. It was nice to do it.
 
One of Poulters teammates, Justin Rose, believes Poulter will feed off the criticism.
 
Ians the kind of guy that can take care of himself, said Rose, who could find himself paired with his fellow Englishman when play starts on Friday. When hes got a point to prove, he normally goes out there and does it.
 
Poulter said hes had a chance to talk with Clarke and smooth over any hard feelings.
 
He was very supportive, Poulter said. Hes obviously very disappointed with not making the side. But Darren said, You know, Im very pleased that youve made the side and youre a very worthy player of making that side. Thats the type of guy Darren is. Hes obviously taken it personally. Hes very disappointed. But on the other hand, hes pleased for me.
 
Poulter said theres no lingering bitterness in the locker room, either.
 
Maybe hell even get a chance to break out his apparently dead-on impersonation of a character from the old British sitcom Only Fools and Horses, the one that prompted Faldo to quip in the call to let him know he was on the team, Raquel, go and put your overcoat on, its time to go to the Ryder Cup.
 
The guys have been great, Poulter said. Everybody on the team is united.
 
At the 11th hole Wednesday, he stood over a 20-foot putt just as Faldo pulled up in a cart to check out the group.
 
Poulter rolled it right in the center of the cup.
 
Now, hes just got to do it when it counts.
 
Related Links:
  • U.S. Report Cards
  • European Report Cards
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
  • Getty Images

    McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

    Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

    McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

    Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

    McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

    Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

    Getty Images

    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

    Getty Images

    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

    Getty Images

    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.