• Ryder Cup

Poulter dismisses afternoon rest as all part of the plan

Alex Perry at Gleneagles
September 26, 2014
Ian Poulter says he "didn't make enough putts" during his opening match at the Ryder Cup © Getty Images

Shortly after the opening fourball pairings for the Ryder Cup were announced on Thursday afternoon, European captain Paul McGinley admitted: "There will be decisions I'll get wrong as captain."

But not many European fans will have been too disappointed with partnering the team's talisman, Ian Poulter, with local favourite Stephen Gallacher. And when it was confirmed they would be facing the rookie pairing of Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, many predicted a massacre.

And a massacre it was. Only it was Poulter and Gallacher left feeling as blue as their St Andrew's Cross-inspired outfits. The American young guns poured home six birdies to bring Poulter's seven-match winning streak to a juddering halt with a 5&4 victory in Friday morning's third match.

'I didn't like that pairing at all'

Should Paul McGinley have teamed Stephen Gallacher with out-of-sorts Ian Poulter? No, says Colin Montgomerie © Getty Images
  • Colin Montgomerie, Europe's victorious 2010 captain, believes Paul McGinley has made his first mistake as Ryder Cup skipper by pairing Ian Poulter with Stephen Gallacher.
  • During commentary for the Golf Channel at Gleneagles, Montgomerie said: "Ian Poulter wasn't playing well [ahead of the tournament]. He was 70th on the US money list and 50th on the European money list.
  • "I'm not saying a surprise pick, but at the same time you had to pick him because of his past performances.
  • "But to give Stephen Gallacher - who's a rookie playing on a home track - someone that's struggling with his own game?
  • "I didn't like that European pairing at all."

Despite the thrashing, there were eyebrows raised when it was revealed Poulter would not re-emerge in the afternoon for the foursomes. But he already knew it would be the case.

"We have got a very, very strong team," he said. "We need to keep that team as fresh as possible and make sure everyone gets a good rotation and a good amount of games.

"I was fully aware that I was going out once today and that I could have a rest this afternoon to see exactly what was going to happen on the board.

"I knew I wasn't playing five matches this week and I didn't want to play five coming in this week. Not many people have been able to play five and win five - and that's because it's very tiring."

A quick flick through history tells us that only three players - all American - have achieved said feat: Arnold Palmer and Gardiner Dickinson, both in 1967, and Larry Nelson in 1979. In fact, Poulter's four-from-four antics at Medinah two years ago is the best 100% record on Great Britain & Ireland-slash-Europe's record.

"I'm 38," Poulter added. "We've got some younger pups on the team who might be able to do better than I can."

One thing's for sure, Poulter remains confident he can bounce back.

"I left a few putts short today, and that's very frustrating," he said. "Taking a dent this morning, I can shrug that off now and look forward to tomorrow."

Poulter might be putting on a brave face, but on the inside he will be raging. It will be interesting to see just how he responds on Saturday.

"That might be a genius move by Tom, it might not," added McGinley of Watson's decision to pair two rookies. Hindsight tells us it was. Not that Poulter sees it that way.

"I don't look at it as a heavy loss. I just look at it as a loss. The Ryder Cup is very simple: You win or you lose." (Unless you halve, of course.)

'It's not about our egos'

  • Are leading golfers playing too much golf? Martin Kaymer certainly thinks so.
  • The US Open champion, playing with Thomas Bjorn, led Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker from the very start in Friday morning's fourballs - only for the American pair to snatch half a point at 18.
  • Like Ian Poulter, both Kaymer and Bjorn were rested for the afternoon session and the German suggested fatigue can play a huge part in it.
  • "Paul [McGinley] asked me if I would like to play three, four or five matches - and I told him my preferences," he said. "To play five matches after we have done playing the FedEx Cup and playing so much golf recently, it is very difficult to get 100%.
  • "It's not about our egos here, so I'm not disappointed.
  • "If I'm not playing, I will get rested and be ready for the next day. In 2012, I didn't play Saturday at all, and that made me determined to to contribute something to the team on the final day."

Poulter is no stranger to walking off the course shrouded in disappointment following his opening match at a Ryder Cup: three of his four previous appearances have started with defeat, including his debut 10 years ago where the Englishman, partnered by Darren Clarke, was rinsed 4&3 by Tiger Woods and Chris Riley.

Not that Poulter is dwelling on the past - or, indeed, present.

"I said to Stevie when we walked off the course today that, when I played with Darren Clarke in 2004, we got our butts kicked the first time I ever played - and we've obviously had that today.

"But things can change very quickly and we have to keep our heads up right now.

"It didn't quite work for us on the golf course, but we have to look forward to the matches we play in. This is a tricky golf course in tricky conditions and the scores are not going to be as low as some people are thinking out there."

Of course, when Poulter looks at the stats he will read that Reed and Spieth were five-under for their 14 holes today.

Perhaps we will never be privy to US captain Tom Watson's conversation with his rookie pairing ahead of the match - but they played like they had been told to just go for the jugular. After all, they were playing 'Mr Ryder Cup' and the team's only Scot - in Scotland. They had nothing to lose.

"They are two excitable players," Poulter said. "When you are playing against guys who are rolling putts in, it's going to make them very hard to beat.

"I thought they ham-and-egged very well. If one was out of position, the other was right there - and they holed the putts. That's what you need in the better-ball format. Hats off to them, they played very well."

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