MARANA, Arizona (Reuters) - Whether it is the biennial Ryder Cup or the annual WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Ian Poulter has always been electrified by the challenge of one-on-one golf.
It has been no different this week at Dove Mountain where the flamboyant Englishman has remained unbeaten after four matches as he bids to replicate his title triumph here three years ago.
“My record in match play is very, very good and I‘m just very comfortable going toe-to-toe with somebody,” Poulter told reporters after beating American veteran Steve Stricker 3&2 in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
“I‘m playing for myself this week. I really enjoy the fun of match play. As good as my record is in Ryder Cup, in some way it doesn’t translate into playing just for yourself.”
Poulter has been a talismanic force for Europe at the Ryder Cup where he has compiled an overall record of 12-3-0 with his eye-bulging, fist-pumping passion.
Asked to compare the intensity of the Ryder Cup with his focus at the Match Play Championship, Poulter replied: ”It’s there. It’s there. Definitely, it’s there. But you can’t compare it. It’s very difficult.
”In Ryder Cup you’ve got 50,000 fans, and here you haven’t quite got that many fans, so you’re not feeding off the crowd, you’re just trying to do it yourself.
“You can’t get as much adrenaline going as you can in the Ryder Cup, but yet there’s still intense moments out there on the golf course to switch your brain on,” the Briton said after improving his Match Play Championship (win-loss) record to 22-9.
Poulter made several clutch putts and one chip-in on the way to his victory over Stricker as he set up a mouth-watering showdown with champion Hunter Mahan in Sunday’s semi-finals.
Long regarded as one of the best putters in the game, Poulter believes his all-round form this week very close to that in 2010 when he outplayed fellow Briton Paul Casey 4&2 in the Match Play Championship final.
”I feel as good,“ said the ultra-confident Englishman, a 12-times winner on the European Tour. ”I feel I‘m a better player today than what I was in 2010.
“I feel more equipped than what I was in 2010. I feel like I‘m rolling the ball as good as I was certainly in 2010.”
Poulter’s decision to take six weeks off competitive golf since he tied for ninth at the PGA Tour’s season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii has been especially beneficial this week.
”I couldn’t be any more ready to play golf,“ he smiled. ”Albeit I never played a round of golf for the last four weeks of my six weeks off, I didn’t play one round, I didn’t play one hole, so I came here very, very well practiced.
”I had a lot of range work to do, so I’ve done that, and it’s transferred from the range to the golf course this week. It was a case of, yes, I have had six weeks off and I just need to get that buzz going.
“I feel really good. It will be more mentally tiring than anything else over the next couple of rounds, so hopefully I can pull on what I’ve done in the last six weeks ... and be really strong tomorrow.”
The two semi-finals will be followed by the championship final at Dove Mountain on Sunday.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury