MEDINAH, Illinois (Reuters) - Ian Poulter, eyes burning like a man possessed, ran off five birdies in a row to give Europe victory in the final fourball match on Saturday and keep alive hopes of a Ryder Cup miracle at Medinah.
Poulter completed his sensational finish with a 15-foot putt that gave him and Rory McIlroy a one up win over Americans Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner to send the Europeans to the final day 10-6 behind after they trailed by six points late on Saturday.
The Americans dominated early and threatened to turn the event into a rout before the fight back that ended in twilight made it a four-point deficit, matching the record margin overcome by the U.S. team 13 years ago at Brookline.
“We needed to get something going,” said captain’s pick Poulter, who always seems to play his best in the cauldron of Ryder Cup pressure. “We had to make birdies and wow, five in a row. It was awesome.”
Poulter poured in a 15-footer at the 16th hole to give the European duo their first lead of the match after standing two holes back through 12. He made an eight-footer at the par-three 17th to match former Masters winner Johnson and halve the hole.
At the 18th, Dufner sank a short putt for birdie rather than let partner Johnson hit his longer putt, putting all the pressure on Poulter to produce.
The 36-year-old Englishman, icy cool over the most tense shots, confidently rolled in his ball and then commenced the roars, fist-pumps and mad-man glares that have by now become familiar after his heroics.
“Incredible, incredible,” said McIlroy, who began a six-birdie barrage for the team with his hole-winning putt at the 13th.
Poulter, who won his two foursomes partnerships with compatriot Justin Rose, improved to 3-0 at Medinah and to 11-3-0 overall in the Ryder Cup.
“When Poults gets that look in his eyes, especially the week of the Ryder Cup, it’s really impressive,” said McIlroy.
”It’s intense, it’s very intense. I don’t know, he just gets that look in his eye, especially when he makes one of those big putts, and he’s fist pumping, and he’ll just look right through you.
“It’s just great to see, great to see the enthusiasm and the passion that he has for this event.”
Poulter, whose 11 tour wins include the 2010 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and last year’s World Match Play Championship, obviously thrives in the format.
”Match play, I love the fight of it,“ said Poulter. ”I mean, you get to stare your opponent straight in the face, and sometimes that’s what you need to do.
”The Ryder Cup, I’ve said it so many times, it means an awful lot to every one of us. You know, there’s a lot of passion in that team room and there’s reasons why we want to keep that trophy as long as possible.
“This event is just so big to every one of us, and we love it. I love it.”
Editing by Julian Linden