Ian Poulter vows to 'take down' Americans as Ryder Cup rivalry heats up

MATT MAJENDIE
Bring it on: Poulter is in bullish mood ahead of the Ryder Cup: REUTERS

Ian Poulter is relishing the prospect of being Europe’s Ryder Cup marked man and has pledged to “take down” his American rivals.

Poulter is one of European captain Thomas Bjorn’s four wildcard picks after a return to form following a slump which saw him tumble down the world rankings and miss out on Ryder Cup selection two years ago.

And the 42-year-old is confident he can go on to be the European talisman, not just in Paris but for a few more editions of the event.

Having been earmarked by the Americans as the player they would most like to beat, Poulter said: “I take it as a huge compliment more than anything. It’s a daunting position to be in, to know that everyone really wants to take you down but, quite frankly, I want to take them down as much. That’s why this week is so special. You can be friends week in, week out, but when it comes to the Ryder Cup there’s something extra special there, and it means so much to want to win and have to win.”

Having worked his way back into the team, Poulter insists he is not about to view the tournament at Le Golf National as his Ryder Cup farewell.

“It won’t be,” he said when asked if he thought it might be his last time as a player. “I would like to think I’ve got more in me. How I’ve played this year is, hopefully, the start of me kicking forward again to play in some more. I don’t want to think that this is my last hurrah. I would like to be part of Team Europe moving forward.”

Poulter is a veteran of five Ryder Cups and best remembered for sparking the turnaround in fortunes at Medinah in 2012, when Europe pulled off what had looked like an unlikely victory.

But, having struggled with injury and form, he feared his Ryder Cup days were over. “There’s a voice in the back of your head that says you might not get back to as good as you were,” he said. But, when asked in December 2016 what was left for him in golf, he replied: “I’m going to make the team in Paris.”

Roll on 21 months and he added: “That’s been the goal. It’s been something which has kept me going. I felt, if I work hard, if I refocus properly, restructure things, then I definitely could make this team, which I have, so I’m pretty proud.”

Poulter also admitted the inspiration of seeing Tiger Woods rise from outside the world’s top 1,000 to becoming a tournament winner again for the first time in five years had helped as a catalyst in his own, new-found success. “It’s quite inspirational to see how he’s come back as good as he’s come back,” he said.

The early indications from Bjorn in today’s opening morning’s practice round was that the Dane was toying with pairing Poulter together with Open champion Francesco Molinari. The duo teed off with Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton, suggesting Bjorn is happy to blood two debutants in one match.

Europe’s captain is also likely to reignite the partnership of Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose, who boast four points from a possible six in their pairings, with former Masters champion Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren also in that quartet this morning. The other European quartet hinted that Rory McIlroy and Thorbjorn Olesen could form an early partnership on Friday, along with Jon Rahm and Paul Casey.

In the American camp, Woods teed off with Bryson DeChambeau, while Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, plus Ricky Fowler and Dustin Johnson seem obvious pairs. Practice suggested Phil Mickelson might be tried with Patrick Reed, Tony Finau with Brooks Koepka and Webb Simpson alongside Bubba Watson.

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