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Ian Poulter: Why the Ryder Cup is like a drug

30 Sep 2018 : 10:08 Comments: 0 Views: 
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The mad, bulging eyes, the guttural roar and the maniacal fist pump told you this was something different.

This ran way deeper than mere golf. It was his everything. That birdie putt had given his drowning European team something to cling on to. A lifeline, however flimsy.

It was Ian Poulter's third birdie in a row on a bone-shaking Saturday afternoon at Medinah outside Chicago in 2012, and it took him and partner Rory McIlroy ahead for the first time in the match with two holes left.

Europe had been outplayed for the best part of two days and at 10-4 behind -- and down in the final two matches on the course -- they were facing Ryder Cup humiliation. No team had ever come from so far back in the Sunday singles.

Poulter, however, refused to wilt. It meant too much. To him, his teammates, Europe's fans. He was desperate to somehow stay in the fight.

McIlroy, then the world's No.1 player, could only laugh and shake his head as Poulter took the leading role and roared like a psychopath.

Even greenside needle from basketball great Michael Jordan, a long-time USA Ryder Cup cheerleader, couldn't put Poulter off. It just gave him more energy.

He relished the rivalry, the white-hot intensity. He relished standing tall amid the maelstrom, taking the battle to the Americans in their own backyard, back in the environment of his beloved Ryder Cup.

"I crave the adrenaline rush, I crave the team atmosphere, I crave the excitement, the anticipation, the nerves, the first tee sing song, I just simply love the event," Poulter told CNN Sport ahead of his sixth Ryder Cup appearance next week.

"I don't take drugs, but I'm sure that's the feeling they get. You get such a rush that week that you crave it more."

Poulter and McIlroy fighting hard in 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah.

'Most intense moment'
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Now 42, Poulter played in his first Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills in the US in 2004, but his first taste of the biennial event came as a golf-obsessed youngster, camping with his mates and attending matches at The Belfry in England. He knew he loved it, but he couldn't have imagined what it would do for him.

On that spellbinding Saturday afternoon at Medinah, Poulter and McIlroy were locked in a momentous duel with Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson. Up ahead, Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald had turned around their match to beat Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, but Europe was still almost out on its feet.

A fourth straight Poulter birdie on the short 17 kept the flame flickering. On the final green, when everyone else had putted, it was down to the Englishman.
Twelve feet, death or glory.

"I was well aware of the gravity of the putt," he says. "Miss it, I don't think the team has a chance to win the Ryder Cup. Make it, we have a great chance."

Lining up the putt, he surveyed both teams standing expectantly at the side of the green. "The emotion running through your body is adrenaline, nerves, excitement, and you have about 40 seconds to process that alongside the line and the speed," he says.

"My 16GB processor was under immense pressure to deliver a point."Ian Poulter and partner Rory McIlroy embrace after winning their match in 2012.
In that time, he admits he also made up his mind to "fist pump it home."

"I knew what this would mean, to be able to pull the energy from that and create a level of momentum to take into the singles matches," he says.
The crowd fell silent. Poulter's heart pounded through his pink top. The ball dropped, and he let rip. Eyes like headlights, fists pumping like jack hammers, chest puffed out. His teammates and Europe's fans were going "bananas."

It was, he says, his "most intense moment" in an impressive body of Ryder Cup moments.

The victory gave Europe what Poulter would later describe as a "pulse." They trailed 10-6, but the team room was buzzing that night.
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