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Off-colour Ian Poulter is all set to roar back into action

First defeat in eight matches is a shock for Europe's lucky charm, but he will recover

By Carl Markham

Europe's Ryder Cup talisman Ian Poulter insisted he would shrug off a first defeat in eight matches but would have to wait a while to get the loss out of his system.

Paired with rookie Stephen Gallacher the duo never really got going and were taken apart 5&4 by United States debutants Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, having been six down with seven to play.

It was a significant blow landed by the Americans – inflicting Poulter's heaviest defeat in the event – against a player they had targeted from the off as he had been Europe's leading points scorer in the last three events and sparked the miraculous comeback at Medinah two years ago.

"There are a few guys on our team that specifically would like to match up against Ian," said Spieth yesterday. "There are a few guys that came up and told us they are very jealous that we had them today.

"But whatever it is, past history or just the fact that he's known as being kind of the Ryder Cup wizard for the Europeans, he's certainly not under our skin because we haven't dealt with him before."

Because of Medinah heroics, Poulter was held up as being Europe's leading light at Gleneagles but the 38-year-old has been keen to stress there is much more to it than that.

"Obviously my record has been pretty good so taking a dent this morning I can shrug that off and look forward to tomorrow," said the Englishman yesterday.

"Obviously it's a loss on the board, whether that be 5&4 or one down, but I don't look at it as a heavy loss, I just look at it as a loss.

"Ryder Cup is very black or white. It's very simple: You lose or you win.

"I said to Stevie walking off the golf course when I played with Darren Clarke in 2004 we had our butts kicked the first time I ever played (losing 4&3 to Tiger Woods and Chris Riley) and obviously we've had that today. But you know what, things can change very quickly,

"This is a team game and they have to beat 12 of us. It's not just about singling one or two guys out.

"This is about us digging in when we need to and that's exactly what we need to do as a team.

"I left a few putts short, which is very frustrating, but this is a strong team and a team that you'll see fight very hard right till the end."

Poulter was rested for the afternoon foursomes and he said that was the plan all along by captain Paul McGinley.

"I knew I wasn't playing this afternoon. It's very difficult to play everybody in five matches in the Ryder Cup," he added yesterday. "We need to keep the team as fresh as possible and make sure everyone gets a good rotation and a good amount of games.

"I knew I wasn't playing five coming in this week, and I probably didn't want to play five coming into this week.

"Not many people have been able to play five and win five and the reason for that is because it's very tiring. I'm 38; we've got some younger pups on the team that might be able to do it better than I can.

"If my role is to play twice or three or four or five times then I will go out there and do whatever I'm asked to do."

Meanwhile Ryder Cup veteran Lee Westwood felt his opening-day performance went some way to justifying his selection as a wild card.

The 41-year-old, playing in his ninth event, was short of form coming into the contest but Paul McGinley selected him for his vast experience.

Together with rookie Jamie Donaldson he secured Europe's first point of the afternoon foursomes with a two-hole victory over Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar.

"It's nice for the captain when he picks you to repay him with points, because the captain needs confidence as much as the rest of the players," said the Englishman, who was rested for the morning fourballs.

"He needs to know that he's done his work well and put the foundations in there and the picks are a big part of that.

"I guess when he was picking me he was picking experience to play with somebody that had not played before, and it worked out well for him.

"I think Paul's doing a good job and he seems to have cherry-picked and picked a lot of previous captains' brains."

Westwood had plenty of praise for his partner as well.

"When you've played a few, it's fun watching somebody who has made their debut play so well and take to it like a duck to water," he added.

"I had no doubt he would, really. He plays well in the big events. He plays well under pressure and you don't tend to get much more pressure than a Ryder Cup, especially when you're making your debut."

Donaldson comes across as a quiet, often dour, character but he was seen celebrating with gusto after holing a birdie putt on the 14th to maintain their two-hole lead.

"Obviously you try to keep on a level keel all the time so the emotions don't go too up and down," he said. "You're not sort of over-hyping yourself up sort of thing then a few fist-pumps came from nowhere.

"Obviously this event is going to bring that out in you."

Belfast Telegraph


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