Poulter must ‘earn his stripes’

Europe captain Paul McGinley has warned Ian Poulter he is not guaranteed a place in the side at Gleneagles next year, despite likening his Ryder Cup heroics to Liverpool’s Champions League final comeback against AC Milan.

Poulter must ‘earn his stripes’

Poulter famously sparked the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ last year by making five birdies in-a-row as he and Rory McIlroy won the final Saturday afternoon fourball against Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner, telling his team-mates afterwards: “Now we have a pulse.”

Poulter went on to beat US Open champion Webb Simpson in the singles to make it four points from four matches, while he won three points from four at Celtic Manor in 2010 and four from five at Valhalla in 2008.

However, the 37-year-old has twice needed wild cards to make the team and McGinley insists FedEx Cup winner Henrik Stenson is the only player to be anywhere near being considered a ‘certainty.’ Stenson already has around 80 per cent of the points he is likely to need to qualify.

“Ian Poulter is a special guy and what he did last year was incredible,” McGinley said at an event in Gleneagles marking one year to go until the 40th Ryder Cup.

“It wasn’t a case of making five birdies when everything is with you and you are hearing the roars around the golf course and things are flying. Making five birdies on the Sunday when the momentum is with you is one thing, but what Ian Poulter did in making five birdies in-a-row on the back of Rory making one on 13 is incredible.

“It really was one of the most incredible achievements I have seen on a golf course. That was a monumental achievement and there is no doubt he personally pulled the team into a position to be just within touching distance. Then when he got into the locker room he said ‘For the first time all week we have a pulse’. That was so poignant and right as we were on life support before that.

“I would certainly put that on a par with Liverpool’s achievement in the Champions League final (in 2005), coming back from 3-0 down at half-time.

“Everyone has got this impression of Ian Poulter being a William Wallace, walking around the team room and banging on the heart, shouting and roaring. I can assure you behind the scenes he is a very polished, observant member of the team. He doesn’t make the rip-roaring speeches but you know looking around the team, you can tell the players who are up for it as well as those who are suffering and nervous.

“But I am not saying anybody is in the team. I am talking in the past and I am talking about what he has achieved until now. I can assure you that if Ian Poulter has a very poor year next year he is not going to be in the team.

“But the chances of Ian Poulter having a very poor year are slim and I am hoping that doesn’t happen. I would love to have him in the team but he has to earn his stripes. He has to prove to me he is on his game and mentally and physically ready.”

Poulter was one of Jose Maria Olazabal’s two wild card picks in 2012, but 2014 United States captain Tom Watson believes the “purest” form of the Ryder Cup would see all 12 players qualify for the team.

The 64-year-old opted to reduce his number of wild cards from four to three, while McGinley chose to go from two to three.

“If you really look at it, the purest form of Ryder Cup would be no captain’s picks, 12 players who qualify,” Watson said. “That’s the way I qualified. Maybe that’s the way it should go back to.

“It would release the pressure on me as a captain to call up the players who were under consideration to say ’you’re out’. That’s not a pleasant phone call to make.”

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