- Alistair Tait
Ian Poulter's way: "Be respectful but ruthless"
Charley Hull and Lauren Taylor once received a valuable lesson on the art of match play from Ian Poulter that goes a long way to explaining why the Englishman is the master of the oldest form of golf. As if we didn't already know that, he gave us another masterclass with his 6&5 demolition of Rory McIlroy in the opening round of the WGC–Dell Technologies Match Play.
As the teenagers found out, Poulter doesn’t hesitate to pummel an opponent into submission, even a friend like Rory who’s clearly going through swing troubles.
Hull and Taylor were hopefuls for the 2012 Curtis Cup at Nairn Golf Club, Scotland. Both had been named to the provisional squad for the match against the United States. Hull would make the team after a bit of funny business from the Ladies Golf Union, while an injury saw 2011 Women’s Amateur champion Taylor miss out.
Both got the chance to play with fellow Woburn Golf Club member Poulter over the Marquess course shortly before the team was announced. They wasted no time picking the brain of the man nicknamed “The Postman” for delivering Ryder Cup points. He has lost just six of the 22 points he’s played for in the biennial match, and has never lost in singles.
His advice to his teenage Woburn club mates explains why.
“Be extremely respectful to your opponent but be utterly ruthless, too,” Poulter said. “Never relax because if you do you can lose easily.
“Don’t ever think you’ve won a hole before you’ve actually won it, because that’s dangerous. Don’t think because you’ve hit the green in two and your opponent is in the rough or a bunker that you’re going to win the hole.
“Expect them to hole from off the green or out of the bunker. It happens. I’ve seen it and experienced it. You can easily get complacent and switch off thinking you’ve either won a hole or are going to win the match. You can’t switch off, because if your opponent comes back at you then it’s very hard to switch back on.”
Poulter gave the example of playing fellow Englishman Tom Lewis in a Volvo World Match Play Championship. Poulter found one green in two and watched as Lewis took a penalty drop from a hazard. Lewis then holed his next shot. Poulter lost the hole.
“That sort of thing happens in match play all the time, and you have to be prepared for it,” Poulter added.
Hull arrived in Nairn with Poulter’s words ringing in her head.
“I’ve taken all of what he told me on board,” Hull said. “It was interesting what he said about the times when your opponent is in a bunker and you can’t switch off. You’ve got to keep pushing yourself every match.
“He’s been a great inspiration to me. I think his mindset is fantastic. He’s so strong-minded and I think that’s how he’s got as far as he’s got. I’ve never met anyone who’s more confident. He’s just so positive. What he said to me should help me this week. I’m just going to try my hardest every match.”
How did that go? The then 16 year-old lost her first two matches alongside Scotland’s Pamela Pretswell, but easily defeated Lindy Duncan 5&3 in a vital singles contest to help Great Britain & Ireland win 10 ½ – 9 ½.
Guess Poulter’s wee chat helped. It pays to listen when match play master Poulter talks.
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