An inspirational Poulter joins an elite list of players
And, in taking eight and a half points from a possible 12 in Sunday’s singles, that is effectively what Europe’s players did in taking Ballestero’s words and putting them into action.
In an emotional tribute to his team at the closing ceremony, Olazabal remarked: “All men die, but not all men live, you made me feel alive this week.”
Where once players like Ballesteros, Olazabal himself and Colin Montgomerie provided the on-course inspiration, that role has now passed on to Poulter. He was the top-scoring player on the European team (with four points from four matches) but, more than putting points on the board, his actions were infectious: to his team-mates, and to the thousands of European supporters who chorused their Ole-Ole-Oles as if encouraging bullfighters.
Poulter quipped afterwards that he was taking “two years off, I’ll see you at the next one”.
In reality, he is taking a three-week break – well-earned – from playing, but there is no doubt this match brings out the very best in him. Why? “It’s a passion I’ve seen at the Ryder Cup for years and years and as a kid growing up. It’s something that comes from within. I don’t know. I just love it.”
Of his competitiveness, Poulter added: “In every form of sport I played (growing up), whether I was playing football, whether I was playing pool, whatever I was doing I was really competitive. My dad ingrained it in me, he always told me to play to win. I’m a bad loser. My dad’s a bad loser. That’s why I’m hard to play against in matchplay, and why guys dislike me and want to beat me.”
And, yet, on the flipside, the emotions experienced by the Americans demonstrated how heart-breaking things can be when they go horribly wrong. The plight of Furyk best exemplified the heartache. On two other occasions this year, in the US Open and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Furyk – a captain’s wild-card pick by Davis Love III for Medinah – had seen his putter let him down when victory was at hand.
Here, it was worse.
“I’ll be honest, it’s been a very difficult year . . . we came here as a team, we wanted to win the Ryder Cup as a team and we didn’t do it. It’s been a low year.
“I’ve played very well this year but haven’t closed the door. I’m pretty sure Sergio (Garcia) will tell you I outplayed him but I didn’t win and I lost the match.
“I’ve had a lot of that happen this year. As far as team versus individual, it’s the lowest point of my year,” admitted Furyk.
Victory and defeat. A very thin line.