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Poulter more than just clothes horse

By Karl MacGinty

We've joked about some of his outlandish on-course costumes; glowered at his selection ahead of Darren Clarke for the Ryder Cup and guffawed out loud when he dared suggest he'd be second only to Tiger Woods at the top of the world!

Well nobody's laughing now.

Ian Poulter's 16-year odyssey from selling chocolate bars and tee pegs in a club pro shop to World Golf Championship victory in Tucson on Sunday stands in glorious relief to Tiger's horrific fall from grace.

How apt that along with his €1,019,635 winner's cheque as Accenture Match Play Champion, Poulter (34) should also receive The Walter Hagen Trophy, dedicated to golf's most famous dandy.

“He was a snappy dresser,” said Poulter, plainly delighted with the association.

Apart from the legendary American's 11 Major titles, there's one other significant difference between Hagen and the man from Hitchin: Poulter does his own ironing.

He's worth millions; has just added a Ferrari California and a Mercedes S63 AMG to his car collection and parks them outside the home he shares with wife, Katie, and their two young children on the exclusive Lake Nona resort in Orlando.

Yet the 34-year-old Englishman personally presses each outfit in his hotel room before wearing it in public. Indeed, his commitment to fashion inevitably led some fans to mistake him more for a clothes horse than a world-class golfer.

“For me it's a business and one that I'm very passionate about,” he explains.

“I take pride and care in how I present myself on the golf course. I iron my clothes for every match. I want to go out there looking good.

“It's interesting how a lot of people have judged me by the way I present myself as opposed to how well I can actually perform, which makes it very pleasing for me to be in this position now.

“I guess being No 5 in the world stands for more than just what I wear.”

Poulter is justifiably proud of his highest world ranking so far in a career which had such humble origins in 1994, when, as a four handicapper, he was employed as an assistant at his local club.

That was the year another 18-year-old named Eldrick Woods became the youngest-ever winner of the US Amateur title.

Poulter graduated from Q-School with his European Tour card at his fourth attempt in 1999 and, after winning the Italian Open in his first season, was named Rookie of the Year in 2000, as the world stood in awe of Tiger and three stunning Major Championship victories at Pebble Beach, St Andrews and Valhalla.

Though Poulter's climb up the world ladder was at a more modest pace, he managed to win in each of his first five years on the European Tour, in the process making his Ryder Cup debut at Oakland Hills in 2004.

His infamously prickly relationship with current Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie is believed to have its origin in the following year's Seve Trophy.

On that occasion, Poulter chose to practice instead of supporting his Britain and Ireland team-mates on 18 and when team captain Monty challenged him on that point he allegedly received a two-word reply.

He believes that experience contributed to the remarkable “sense of calm” he felt as Sunday's 36-hole final against Paul Casey came to a climax.

Poulter had never felt as much in control as he completed a 4&2 victory, which should stand to him when he next gets into contention at the Majors — he was an impressive second to Padraig Harrington at the 2008 Open in Birkdale.

At first glance, Poulter and Harrington might appear like polar opposites but behind that brash exterior, the Englishman is as grimly determined as Ireland's triple Major champion.

He's more precise from tee to green; his short game is not quite as good as the gifted Dubliner's but his putting probably is better, which really is saying something.

Belfast Telegraph

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