Ian Poulter must not want 2012 to end. The Englishman was hardly enduring a troublesome year before the Ryder Cup, having finished in the top 10 of three majors, but events at Medinah earned him immense respect and triggered a spell in which he has since finished fourth, first and second in individual events.
"It's the kind of golf I would have expected after the Ryder Cup, to be honest with you," says Poulter, in typically forthright fashion. "As well as I played at the Ryder Cup, it would have been a disappointment had I not contended pretty soon afterwards. I have practised the same as I practised before the Ryder Cup so I feel fresh and ready to go. I would certainly expect to be in the hunt after the Ryder Cup.
"It was an amazing week [at Medinah] and one I'm obviously going to keep with me for a long time. It just shows 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 did at the Ryder Cup."
Look out Dubai, then, where Poulter is in the field for this weekend's World Championship. He is a player often, and somewhat unfairly, accused of over-confidence; now his attitude is perfectly legitimate. "When you look at the best players in the world, they are doing it week in, week out," he says. "So there's no reason that I shouldn't sit among those guys. The last three weeks have definitely proved that my mindset can be right going into these tournaments."
The million dollar question is whether or not he can find the form to win a major. It often seems illogical to say certain players "deserve" to win one of the four but in Poulter's case, it would seem unfair if he ends his career without being affordedsuch an honour.
He has worked harder than most to get to where he is in the game and, in the Ryder Cup, has often seemed to single-handedly inspire his team-mates. When he turns up at Augusta in April, he will be preparing for his 40th major.
"Been there, done that, not going down there again," laughs Poulter when asked about his aims for 2013. "No, you all know that I expect myself to do really well and I have some big ambitions. I'm not going to tell you how big they are for next year. But, yes, they are going to be pretty big obviously. I would expect myself to work really hard in the off-season and I would expect myself to be able to come out at the start of next year and deliver in certain tournaments.
"That's the pressure I put on myself at the start of the year and that's not going to change. It's never going to change. I keep looking at my stats and keep looking at areas where I can improve. There's a number of areas I can improve on for next year.
"Obviously, the main goals are around the majors and I have played well in threeof them this year. I would like to think coming down a stretch, I've got a lot of self-belief in me that can hopefully get me over the line. But we'll just have to wait and see; they are hard to win, as you know."
One thing Poulter clearly believes he does not require, is help with his mental approach. "Do you honestly think I need a sports psychologist? Are you crazy?" he replies when the notion is suggested to him. "I think people would pay me a fortune to be a sports psychologist."
For now, though, the world No13 is aiming only to advise his young son, Luke, as he starts finding his own way around golf courses. Poulter has long-since set up home in the US but he also admits he is yet to be captivated by the national sports in the country. "I have never watched a full game of baseball. I walk out after about five innings, it bores me to tears," he says. "You want to sit there for four hours with hot dogs and Coke? Come on. I've been there for four years and I have never watched a full game."
Poulter continues to provide more gripping entertainment, to his immensecredit.
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image: © Keith Allison