Connor Jipps pays the ultimate compliment to Ian Poulter...
Europe's surprise Ryder Cup victory will go down as one of the prestigious competition's greatest shocks after Jose Maria Olazabal's team fought back from a 10-6 deficit to retain the cup. The victory was a testament to the temperament, passion and belief of the European players, none more so than Hitchin's finest son, Ian Poulter.
Poulter has always divided opinion due to a variety of controversial actions over his career. Dress codes have been stretched to the limits by the Englishman over a multitude of uncouth attire experiments, including a decision of pure audacity to wear a football shirt of his favourite football team - Arsenal - during a round of competition golf.
His clothing hasn't been all that has done the talking though with some memorable statements including being quoted in a 2008 issue of Golf World as saying "Don't get me wrong, I really respect every professional golfer, but I know I haven't played to my full potential and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger." This before Poulter had really proved himself at the highest level.
In fairness to Poulter, he now finds himself the second most followed professional golfer on the social networking site Twitter, so it could be said that his comments from four years ago are not entirely unjust even if in an entirely different context.
Nevertheless his game has struggled in golfs four majors, having failed to contend on the regular basis his talent should be capable of. His best finish to date across the big four occurred in 2008 at Royal Birkdale where the Englishman finished as runner-up behind Padraig Harrington, who in turn finished four shots ahead of his nearest challenger.
All the same it shouldn't be ignored that the current World number 26 has won the WGC-Accenture World Matchplay title, a feat achieved back in 2010 with victory over fellow countryman Paul Casey in the final. That title combined with a pre-2012 Ryder Cup record that reads Played 11, Won 8 suggests that Poulter is arguably the worlds most dangerous Matchplay opponent and certainly dropped all the hints that Poulter could do some damage at the Medinah club.
Over the first two days, Poulter was selected for three of the four sessions, teaming up with the impressive Justin Rose on two occasions - in both foursome sessions - and Rory McIlroy for Saturdays fourballs. Poulter and Rose's chemistry on the course played a large part in securing vital wins, a potent force that outshone the much hyped Northern Irish pairing of McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. The narrow victory over Jason Dufner and Zachary Johnson by Poulter and McIlroy's clubs perhaps brought up the most defining point of the competition and secured Poulter a 2012 event record of played 3, won 3 heading in to the singles.
Heading up to the first tee on Sunday, a partisan Illinois crowd were quick to rub the salt in regarding Poulter's Major tournament deficiencies, chanting 'major winner' at his opponent, US Open victor Webb Simpson. Despite the distraction of the American crowd in the background, willing the Englishman to lose, he continued to battle his way through the golf course in arguably the tightest matchup of the day. Grit, determination and fighting spirit were all on display as Poulter came from behind to secure Europe yet another point over one of America's stars from the tournament. An outburst of pride brushed over Poulter as he roared his delight.
Although Martin Kaymer would later go on to receive the elation of sinking the winning putt, Poulter's putt on the 18th to secure personal victory ensured Europe a platform on which to gain confidence and belief, arguably alongside Rose's winning shot over Mickelson the catalyst to the victory.
The emotion in Poulter's BBC interview will have touched even the most stone-hearted of individuals, as the man who had to rely on a captains pick for the second time in four years, spoke of the honour to play under Olazabal's leadership and Seve's spirit. For all those critics of Poulter's ego there was no ammunition to fire as rather than focus on his fine Ryder Cup exploits, Poulter chose to commend all bar himself.
It is often heard from football pundits and fans that they dream of a team of Messi's. In Ryder Cup terms, Poulter is the golfing equivalent of the Argentinian.
Earlier on Sunday, Poulter tellingly told his Twitter followers that "I love this event so much & I hope we can do something truly unbelievable today #SevePassion". Inspirational from start to finish, it has been an honour to witness Poulter's aspirations and hopes come to fruition. Seve would be proud.
image: © Keith Allison