2015 Preview: Ian Poulter
Welcome to the 2015 Golf Preview, where I’ll take a look at selected golfers and examine what to expect over the next twelve months. Today, we look at Ian Poulter.
“I haven’t played to my full potential and when that happens it will just be me and Tiger.”
When Ian Poulter gave that quote to a Golf World reporter back in 2008, he had won seven times on the European Tour, once in Japan and was coming off of a run where he played in eleven of the previous twelve majors. In other words, he was a successful tour pro at the highest level and that potential that he talked about was starting to show through, but that quote has also become part of the story around Poulter, who has been looked at by many as some form of underachiever in his career despite turning pro as a four handicap by forging his name on documentation and becoming one of the most decorated players in Ryder Cup history.
Any talk about Poulter pretty much starts and ends with his greatness in the match play format. It’s widely thought, and rightfully so in my opinion, that match play is a bit of a crapshoot, especially in the way that it’s handled by the few tournaments that use the format. At the pro level, everyone is so good that it really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise when the 64th ranked player in the world takes out the number one because really, the difference between them over eighteen holes is pretty much non-existent. With Poulter though, his match play record is so good with such a large sample size, that it’s impossible to not think that he’s somehow figured out some kind of formula to the whole thing. Part of me thinks that he looks at a standard leaderboard, him versus the field and course, as boring. In match play, when he’s heads up against one player, it’s like he takes offense to the guy across from him in a “how dare this guy think he’s better than me” kind of way. Of course, this gets ratcheted up every two years when he’s playing for Europe against the United States in the Ryder Cup where he’s crushed more American dreams than the Great Depression.
It’s not that he’s a bad player on a weekly basis in the stroke play format; fourteen wins as a professional worldwide is nothing to sneeze at of course, but his reputation as a match play ace and Ryder Cup hero is so set in stone that he could retire today and he’s be looked at as one of the most beloved golfers in history, assuming you lived in Europe.
ESPN’s Ian Poulter Headshot
ESPN.com has a lot of great golf content, but their player headshots are, shall we say, a little outdated, with Ryan Moore leading the way. As such, I’m introducing the Ryan Moore headshot ranking system. Each player will get a ranking from 1-10, with 10 being the most outdated possible.
Here’s Poulter’s headshot from ESPN:
When I saw this photo, I envisioned that the cameraman told him that his pants looked stupid and Poulter just decided to stare at him with the intensity of a thousand suns. Poulter really hasn’t changed much since he turned pro, so the photo really isn’t far off from where he is now. The tips aren’t as frosted now and that god awful soul patch has thankfully been dropped, but in terms of the Ryan Moore headshot scale, this barely makes a dent.
Why You Should Watch
So many golf fans, especially in North America, have grown to despite Poulter and not just because of his performance at the Ryder Cup. His tendency to “flaunt” his lifestyle on Twitter is a sore spot for some, and like the above quote suggests, he does seem to have a slightly inflated view of himself, but honestly, he’s good for the game. He was even able to poke fun at the quote a few weeks ago:
Guys like Poulter give people like us something to talk about all the time, and it’s not like he’s all style and no substance. He hasn’t fallen out of the top-45 in the world in the last eight calendar years, and you don’t stay that high without being a fully capable player. He’s not afraid to speak his mind, and he tends to lose it from time to time on the course, which is always fun.
Golf isn’t as fun when Ian Poulter isn’t playing, and that’s why you should watch.
Poulter in one GIF
The combination of the setting, the 2012 Ryder Cup, along with the fact that Poulter looks like he’s possessed is the lasting image we’ll all have of Poulter. He could go on to break Jack Nicklaus’ major record and this is how I would remember him.
How good can Ian Poulter really be?
We’ve talked about this already, but when you watch Poulter at the Ryder Cup or the WGC-Match Play, he really does seem like a different player and someone who should have more than one stroke play win on the PGA Tour. The one thought that I always have when I see him at the top of a leaderboard in a regular tournament is that I’m surprised, which shouldn’t happen with someone who has his kind of talent and competitiveness. While I do think that his stroke play record does get unnecessarily beaten down by people at points, it really is something that confuses me and if he were able to win more often in regular tournaments, I think it would probably change the way that a lot of people looked at him.
Poulter actually turns 39 early in 2015, so even though he’s far from being done, it’s not like he’s still got a ton of time to compete for tournament wins against the likes of Rory McIlroy and Jason Day. He’s got plenty of stuff to keep him busy, from his clothing line to caddying for his son Luke, so it’s not like he won’t have stuff to do when he decides to retire the tartans, but I get the sense that there’s still a lot more that he wants to accomplish on the golf course and there’s no better time to start than now.