Team success in the Ryder Cup and individual glory in Major Championships are not mutually exclusive, as the likes of Seve Ballesteros, José María Olazábal, Bernhard Langer, Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam proved on many occasions.
But if Ian Poulter is to miss out on Major glory and instead has to settle for being known as one of the greatest players in Ryder Cup history, the catalyst for the “Miracle at Medinah”, then that is just fine by him.
Poulter won all four of his matches in Chicago, improving his overall record to an amazing 12 wins and just three defeats, including the momentum-changing victory with Rory McIlroy in the Saturday afternoon fourball session.
So far, the 36 year old Englishman has been unable to translate the sort of golf which saw him close out that match with five straight birdies into a Major title, but even if his biggest triumphs come in team events rather than individual ones, Poulter could not care less.
“These may be my Majors, and that’s fine,” Poulter said after Europe came from 10-6 down to equal the largest final day comeback in the event’s history by winning eight of Sunday’s 12 singles. “I have more pride and passion in winning The Ryder Cup than winning a Major.
“Don’t get me wrong, I would love to win one, or even win them all. I’ve been close (he was second to Padraig Harrington in The 2008 Open Championship), but if I don't win another golf tournament, Sunday is going to go down as the highlight of my career.”
Poulter qualified for his first Ryder Cup in 2004, but played just twice in the record nine-point win at Oakland Hills under Langer, losing in fourballs but beating Chris Riley in the singles.
He was a wild card selection by Nick Faldo in 2008, and justified the Captain’s faith at Valhalla by claiming four points out of five – albeit in a losing cause.
After qualifying for the Team in 2010, Poulter lost his opening game but won the next three as Montgomerie’s men won by a single point at the Celtic Manor Resort, but he again needed a wild card from Olazábal to make the side at Medinah Country Club.
“We have actually revised the qualification for next time,” Lee Westwood joked. “It’s nine (qualifying) spots, two picks and Poults. It’s called the Poults clause.”
Olazábal also suggested The Ryder Cup should erect a statue to Poulter, who was told “something that will stay with me forever” by his Captain after the amazing comeback was completed on Sunday night.
Poulter refused to say what that something was, but was willing to try to define what makes him such a feared opponent in match play situations.
“I’m a bad loser, that’s why I’m hard to beat and why guys dislike me and want to beat me,” said Poulter, who has also been on three winning Seve Trophy teams and won the WGC-Accenture Match Play title in 2010 and the Volvo World Match Play Championship in 2011.
“To be part of a team is very special. We created history. You are an individual for the most part – it’s only the Seve Trophy and Ryder Cup that you get to spend any time with players and be a team, so it’s very nice to be a part of that.”
As for the passion he brings to team play with his eye-bulging, fist-pumping celebrations and dealing with a hostile crowd, Poulter said: “I feed off the crowd. If they want to be loud and create an atmosphere, let’s go and play golf. As long as it stays within that line, it’s fine.
“I want to be that guy who contributes to a team. I like to give it 100 per cent or go down in flames.
“It’s fairy-tale stuff. Can anyone believe that actually happened on the golf course? We were dead and buried. We were getting beaten and it was looking like it was going to be humiliating – but we turned it round and it’s got to be the best Ryder Cup in history.”