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An Interview with: IAN POULTER
Ian, welcome back to The Ryder Cup. Impressions, feelings so far of the experience here at Valhalla.
IAN POULTER: Thank you. Yeah, it's been a long time waiting. We're now here. It's been a good couple of days leading in. The golf course I thought was good yesterday. And more importantly, I think the whole team are feeling quite comfortable right now.
So it's nice with a couple of days to go, and the work that we've done and we're doing is looking good.
Q. Good morning.
IAN POULTER: Good morning.
Q. Given all of the controversy over the captain's picks and the static that you took in the media, did you feel in any way doubtful about the reception you might receive from your fellow players, and have they gone out of their way to be welcoming to you in that regard?
IAN POULTER: No, to be honest the guys have been great. Everybody on the team is united as normal. I think the team morale is great. I think everybody is really excited to be here this week, and we want to go out there and do the right job. People are working hard to make sure we do that.
Q. Was there a case in not going to Gleneagles, a feeling on your part that if you went there and missed the cut, that you might not be pickable as such?
IAN POULTER: You know, the decision was made by myself to play where I wanted to play, and I stand by my decision.
Q. Could you identify players on either team that you think the course, from what you saw, that would particularly suit well?
IAN POULTER: I think looking at the course, I was a little surprised the course has opened out in certain areas, i.e., carry over some of the bunkers about 290, 300 yards, it's kind of opened out. The rough has perhaps been taken back five or ten yards in those areas, and I don't think it favors either side.
I think we have got as many long hitters on our side as they have their side. So by doing that, I think it's made it fairly even. I think the golf course is going to be set up with that in mind, that there's obviously going to want to be a lot of birdies made, and that's great for match-play situation.
I think it's going to come down to whoever putts best this week will have the best chance of winning. I think the golf course will give up quite a few birdies.
It's a good, tactical golf course. There's a couple of good, short par 4s. There's certainly a couple of par 5s which are reachable, and I think you will be seeing some good birdie opportunities.
Q. Have you had a chance to talk to Darren since it all kicked off?
IAN POULTER: I have, actually, yeah.
Q. Was he supportive? What did he say?
IAN POULTER: He was very supportive actually. He's obviously personally very disappointed with not making the side. But Darren said, "You know, I'm very pleased that you've made the side and you're a very worthy player of making that side." That's the type of guy Darren is. He's taken it obviously personally; he's very disappointed, but on the other hand, he's pleased for me to make the side.
Q. Does that mean a lot to you?
IAN POULTER: Absolutely it does, yeah. That's the type of person Darren is. He's very respectful and he's a great guy. That's nice. It's nice to have a chat with somebody like that after obviously the situation he was in.
Q. Yesterday Nick chose to send you guys out in threes rather than in fours. I assume that was just to get more work done rather than practice in pairs and stuff. How was that -- did you think you got more out of that rather than possibly playing some alternate-shot or some better ball stuff?
IAN POULTER: Yeah, I think he was looking initially to get us out on the golf course to take a good look at the golf course and that's what we've done yesterday. We got a lot done yesterday. The rounds were pretty long, but I think we took a lot out of that practice round.
Moving forward, obviously we're going out in fours today with a bit more tactical play in mind. I think it worked well to get on the golf course and try to get around as quick as we possibly could, and obviously to stay fresh this week is going to be key.
Q. When we were at Gleneagles, the quotes we read from you in Boston made it sound as though you were pretty stressed out. I just wonder how you came down from that, how you spent the last couple of weeks trying to get your head around what is a very important week for you here.
IAN POULTER: Yeah, I turned the phone off for a week. I was in Orlando on my own practicing. I didn't want to have to pick up my phone and answer a lot of questions and do a lot of media that week. I wanted to try to prepare and get ready to do my best this week in The Ryder Cup.
It means so much to make the side, I just wanted to be able to have a clear mind coming into this week, and that will be very valuable. That will be very valuable to have a clear mind come Friday morning.
Q. Who did you speak to to help you? Were there people you spoke to about the mental side of what you've been through?
IAN POULTER: I spoke quite a bit with my manager, Paul. I spoke to other players, and that was very encouraging. I took a lot out of that, and I was able to do a lot of practice last week in Orlando and feel good.
Q. Does it feel different to be playing as a wildcard pick this time, and do you feel under personal pressure to justify the faith that Nick Faldo has put in you?
IAN POULTER: I feel part of the team. I think everybody who is on that team feels part of the team, whether it's a pick or whether it's made on merit. I think that's one of the values of The European Tour.
Q. What do you think you'll bring to the team this week?
IAN POULTER: I think I'll bring me as a person. I'll bring flair. I'll bring excitement, and I'll bring passion. I'll do my bit for the team this week, and I'm really looking forward to it.
Q. Was Monty equally supportive when you bumped into him over dinner?
IAN POULTER: It literally was; Monty walked past us and said, "Congratulations for making the side, and all the best in Kentucky."
I said, "Thank you very much."
Q. How much influence have you had behind the scenes with your friend Spoony?
IAN POULTER: We have a jukebox with 20,000 songs, so I think everybody is having their input on what they want played in the team room.
Q. You look very relaxed and there's a big buzz in the crowd about the Americans; specifically about the Kentucky pairing. Have you guys spoken about that? And also, how are you going to counteract the Kentucky factor?
IAN POULTER: We haven't spoken about it yet. Obviously it will be -- there will be massive support obviously for those guys. They are on home soil, so you can imagine how pumped up the home crowd are going to be for the Americans.
So we understand that. We have been out there doing our bit yesterday on the golf course, and signing enough stuff and keeping them happy. I think that's key to making sure we kind of keep enough of them on our side, as well.
Q. You experienced a team room in Detroit that had Monty in it. How different is the team room here without Monty?
IAN POULTER: I guess it's a Scot light (laughter). Monty is a huge figure obviously in European Tour golf, and obviously it's a shame he's not on the side. But I think all of the guys that are in the team room are happy to be there. They are pulling for each other, and we'll make sure we put a good show in to be honest.
It's unfortunate he's not there, but the team is very strong.
Q. Nick said that when he gave you the news, you were gobsmacked. Do you think the chance had probably passed you by? What do you think probably tipped the balance your way?
IAN POULTER: Yeah, I was gobsmacked, to be honest. That was a difficult week. I didn't know what way the phone call was going to go and I was waiting in anticipation all morning until I got it. Yeah, I was very, very relieved. A lot of paper talk between both sides of the pond made it very difficult.
I think Nick saw how I played, certainly in the Open was a big factor, to play like I did, as well as I did down the back nine. Must have been a factor in him making his decision. I'm very pleased to be here and to be having a helping hand on the side.
Q. You've talked about your input in the music and jukebox, but have you had any say in uniforms at all, and are you happy with what you're wearing?
IAN POULTER: It's a team game this week and I'm happy to wear any Ryder Cup outfit, whatever it may be. I didn't have any choice in it whatsoever. I didn't even get measured until I got the nod.
Q. Four years ago, you sat out the first day, watched from the sidelines. Do you think that's the best approach to rookies, to let them absorb what's going on, or do you think it's better to be pitched in straightaway?
IAN POULTER: I think it's a difficult situation. Obviously there's four rookies. Four people have to not play in each section of foursomes and fourballs.
So I think everybody is going to play. Whether it be, you know, Friday or Saturday, everybody will play, for sure. I think the guys are strong enough to handle that situation; if they get put in on Friday morning or Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, they will be absolutely fine. We are a strong team and I really do believe that even our rookies are in good form and are playing well. I think they will be fine if they do play on Friday or Saturday.
Q. Can you describe what it felt like to hit your first Ryder Cup shot?
IAN POULTER: Yeah, the day went obviously very slowly, but sitting out on Friday, nobody really wants to sit out. You've been waiting so long to be on the side, you want to get out on the golf course and play. You don't want to be watching.
And it is a great moment to stand on the first tee knowing it is your first Ryder Cup tee shot. It's a big moment, and I think that was -- it was kind of nice for the guys yesterday and it was nice for us to have a little bit of visualization down there on the first tee yesterday. So get used to that first tee shot, because it will be coming around and it will come around pretty quickly.
Q. A couple of questions. I'm sure you're aware of the strength of feeling of your fellow pros at Gleneagles. Do you think further down the line, are there fences you need to mend with some of them?
IAN POULTER: Everybody has been great to be honest. We all make decisions in our careers and that was one of them. I'm strong enough to stand by it and take that decision.
The phone calls I've got from Paul McGinley, Thomas Björn, Darren, etc., etc., it was nice to get that call saying that you're a worthy player on the side and go out there and enjoy yourself and do what you do best.
It's nice. I think certain people might have been preempted in what they wanted to say, but that's fine. I'm a big enough boy to go out and play and I'll have my role.
Q. This week you'll probably play with Justin at some point, culmination of a dream I would imagine for both of you. Can you remember your first thoughts about that being a Ryder Cup partnership?
IAN POULTER: Yeah, it would go back a long way. Looking at it, to say Justin is going to be a rookie this year is amazing; the kind of player he is and how good he's been over a number of years, it's amazing to me he is going to be a rookie. Justin is a great player, and I think you'll see him showing all his colors this week. He's in form. He's excited. I'm excited. It's a pairing that we've matched up in World Cup before. We've played a lot of golf together. We're good friends, and I think we will be a very strong partnership this week.
You know, we've talked about it for a long time that we can't wait, and I certainly can't wait to get out there and be good friends, be good partners and put up a good show.
Q. We have a lot of the Raquel stuff from Nick at Gleneagles. Do you have much of that from your teammates? If he calls you Raquel, what do you call him?
IAN POULTER: It's not Rodney.
Yeah, everybody has been great in the team room, honestly. It's been a nice week so far. We are a team. There's a reason why we've all done so well in the past. That won't change.
Q. Yeah, no, sorry. You're taking it a bit too seriously. Have the others picked up on Raquel?
IAN POULTER: It's been light and there's been a lot of jokes cracked and that's exactly what The European Team is all about. We have had a lot of laughs over the last couple of days, and you have to relax and laugh in that team room.
Q. Over the years we've seen Sergio's demeanor on the golf course, a great asset to this team. It's got under the skin of the Americans, I think it's fair to say. You talk about bringing flair and exuberance. Do you think you might be able to get under the skin of the Americans and that could be an asset?
IAN POULTER: It's not bad getting under the skin of anybody to be honest. I think it's about going out there and doing your job and doing it properly. That's one thing I will be doing well this week.
I'm prepared. I'm fresh. I had a good week off last week. I want to go out there and play golf and I want to go out there and make as many birdies as I possibly can and I also want to bring five points to the side if I play five times. Yeah, there will be no getting under the skin of it. I'll be playing with passion and wanting to bring home the points.
Q. Do you have an explanation for why the Open was so good and the rest of the season has fallen far short of that, and can you try and reproduce what you did there?
IAN POULTER: Yeah, I've looked at my year. It's kind of been one of those ones where I haven't finished a lot off. I've played very, very solid all year. But I kind of got into a nice mindset in the Open. I was very, very focused, and I was able to ride that focus and keep it going for four rounds, and it's something I haven't done for all four rounds this year. It was nice to do it. It was nice to keep momentum going and hole putts at the right time. I think that's something that I had not done early in the season, but looking at my stats, I have performed and played very, very solid.
KELLY ELBIN: Ian Poulter, thank you very much.
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