Ian Poulter, the new golden go-to guy of European golf, will in due course make a "wonderful" Ryder Cup captain, according to Jose Maria Olazabal, but whether the Englishman will accede to the post as a major winner remains far less certain in the Spaniard's mind.
Poulter's pivotal role in winning the Cup was gratefully acknowledged yesterday once again by Olazabal, who compared his key man to Seve Ballesteros in the intensity he brings to the event. Poulter's outstanding record in the sound and fury of the Ryder Cup – his four out of four in Medinah means he has 11 points from his last 12 matches – stands out against his return in the majors, where a runners-up place in the 2008 Open remains his best result.
"Winning a major is difficult," said Olazabal, twice a victor in the Masters. "In the Ryder Cup, we see the best of [Poulter] – he thrives in the team sport, he has got the game for it."
With his vivid team ethic, Poulter, the once wannabe footballer, is made for the Ryder Cup but Olazabal sees one main ingredient missing from his game, and it is a vital one in the modern sport.
"He lacks a little bit of power that these days you need to have," said Olazabal, who pointed out the "huge difference" in playing a major over 18 holes a day for four days compared to the demands of the Ryder Cup. It does not though mean, Olazabal suggested, that Poulter is for ever ruled out of major contention.
"Every player has an Achilles heel," said Olazabal. "No player who has ever played this game has been perfect in all departments. If conditions are right he will be knocking on the door – he will have a chance."
Poulter has managed six top-10 finishes from his 40 majors. This year was his best with a third in the PGA and seventh and ninth in the Masters and Open respectively. When asked in Chicago whether he can transfer his intensity in the Cup to a major, Poulter repeated "it can't be done" six times.
As for his Ryder Cup future – and past – Olazabal has no doubts about where the 36-year-old stands. The captain chose Poulter's putt on the 18th on Saturday evening as his best shot of the three days.
"That was huge – if that hadn't happened I don't think we would have had the chance to win the Ryder Cup," said Olazabal. "For whatever reason this event for him means so much, he thrives in it and it brings the best out of him. That is why he managed to do what he did on Saturday afternoon, it was just amazing. In a way he reminds me a bit of Seve in that regard. That intensity, that focus, that will to win the point is very close to Seve.
"If he is the captain that is obviously a great thing. He will bring the passion of the Ryder Cup, but he will need another 12 players like him and that is hard to find. He will be a wonderful captain for sure."