Defiant Poulter happy to fire up partisan crowd and turn the volume up to 11
20:09 GMT, 29 September 2012
It is safe to say it would never have happened in Monty’s day. Faced with attempting to quieten the manic hordes on the first tee of an away match in the Ryder Cup, Ian Poulter turned to them with a nodding, knowing look — and told them to turn the damn volume up.
A few seconds later it was even louder as Bubba Watson, who had begun the craze by stoking up the crowds the previous afternoon, struck the first blow for America.
Say what you like about these two, but give them credit for recognising that golf is in the entertainment business. And it was not all just show, either.
Conducting: Ian Poulter stirs up the crowd on the first tee
There was method in the apparent madness. The previous day, Graeme McDowell had been in Poulter’s shoes. He tried to cope with the startling difference between all that noise and an eerie quiet and found it difficult to take the club back. Sometimes it is easier to block out the distraction of a few thousand people shouting than it is an unnerving silence.
Poulter’s drive did not find the narrow strip of fairway but his partner, Justin Rose, played a wondrous bunker shot to five feet. So it was that, at precisely 7.31am, Poulter drained the birdie putt and let out the first familiar cry of ‘Come On!’
If truth be told, that was as good as it got for a while for the two Brits. Poulter was being outdriven by 50 yards on occasion by Watson, and the crowd loved it.
‘Hey, Poulter, did your mother hit that one’ cried a particularly sympathetic voice. When Poulter fluffed a chip shot, the cry went up: ‘Airshot! Airshot!’
Loving it: Poulter celebrates a birdie on the 9th
At this stage, assistant captain Paul McGinley, who had been detailed to watch this match, cut a gloomy figure. ‘The bottom line at the moment is we are getting flat outplayed,’ he said.
The great thing about Poulter and Rose is their shoulders do not slump. Two marvellous up and downs at the sixth and seventh kept the deficit to one, before Poulter rolled in a birdie putt at the ninth to square the match. Watson might have more talent than Poulter but it pays off only when he can bring it to bear. Suddenly a few loose shots started to appear and the Englishmen seized upon them.
The Americans bogeyed the par five 10th to fall behind and then another bogey at the 12th left Europe two up. Poulter was quite pleased, as you can imagine. ‘Yessss!’ he roared. No one in the crowd was trying to bait him now.
The Americans won the 16th but Watson’s partner, Webb Simpson, could not convert a decent birdie opportunity from 12 feet at the 18th.
Rising above the crowd: Poulter
Sent out specifically to halt the American momentum and get Europe back in the match, Poulter and Rose closed out proceedings with a one-hole victory to do everything asked of them. It took Poulter’s Ryder Cup record to ten wins and three defeats, a scarcely imaginable rate of success.
Once more, the self-proclaimed postman had delivered. This time, not by quietening the crowd, as so often in the past, but by embracing the noise.