Poulter toast of Europe
Illinois - Ryder Cup firebrand Ian Poulter was the toast of Europe on Sunday as he inspired a stunning comeback over the United States to retain the trophy.
A self-styled Ryder Cup fanatic, the 36-year-old Englishman trounced US Open champion Webb Simpson 2 up in the second of 12 closing singles to help give his side crucial momentum as they battled to reel in a 10-6 overnight US lead.
Jose Maria Olazabal's men eventually edged home 14 1/2 to 13/2 and Poulter finished the event unbeaten at 4-0, bringing his overall Ryder Cup record to a stunning 12 wins, against just three losses and no halves in four appearances.
Perhaps even more crucial to the outcome at Medinah Country Club was Poulter's astounding finish to Saturday afternoon's fourballs session when, playing with Rory McIlory, he closed with five straight birdies to defeat the previously unbeaten Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson at the 18th hole.
His goggle-eyed, fist-pumping victory celebration after sinking the winning putt gave new hope to the flagging Europeans, turning what would have been mission impossible at 11-5 down into an unlikely but not impossible 10-6.
The Poulter effect worked its way right through the 12-man team and it was there at the end as Martin Kaymer brought home the crucial point in his 1 up win over Steve Stricker in the penultimate match.
"I got inspired, to be honest with you, by Poulter on Sunday (in the fourballs)," he said.
"I told Ian after 18 that I thought about him on 16 - when I had the par putt on 16, I thought, come on, if he can do it, you can do it, too.
"So show him that he inspired you for that special event.
"And so he has been fantastic for the team - great pick by (captain Jose Maria) Olazabal. Ian should be set in the Ryder Cup forever."
Kaymer was referring to the fact that Poulter did not even make the team through the automatic points table, but instead had to depend on a wild card entry pass from Olazabal.
But he was no stranger to that situation having also been a wildcard at Valhalla, Kentucky four years ago when Nick Faldo selected him.
On that occasion, he finished up top points scorer on either side with four wins and just the one loss, although it was in a losing cause for Europe.
Two years later he won three and lost one at Celtic Manor, Wales as Europe regained the cup, crucially defeating Matt Kuchar 5 and 4 in the singles.
What was it about the Ryder Cup that so inspired him?
Poulter, ranked 25th in the world, is at pains to explain.
"I don't know. It's a passion I have; it's a passion I've seen at The Ryder Cup for years and years as a kid growing up, and it's something that comes from within. I don't know. I just love it," he said.
"I love the whole fact that I've got 11 great teammates, a fantastic captain and vice captains, and I love the team atmosphere.
"It's something very, very special to be a part of, and you grow a lot closer to 11, 12, 13, 14 other people, and it's very, very special moments that you get at a Ryder Cup."
Whatever his reason for loving the Ryder Cup, his team-mates are in no doubt over what should happen next when Europe defends the cup at Gleneagles, Scotland in two years time.
"We have actually revised the qualification for next time," said Lee Westwood. "It's nine spots, two (wild card) picks and Poults."