Ian Poulter: Love Him or Hate Him, He's Passionate

Ben AlberstadtFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2012

SHENZHEN, CHINA - NOVEMBER 04:  Ian Poulter of England celebrates on the 18th green after winning the WGC HSBC Champions during the final round at the Mission Hills Resort on November 4, 2012 in Shenzhen, China.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Ian Poulter took to Twitter after his lackluster performance in the World Challenge to defend himself against critics.

At issue? His club-slamming and obvious disgust with his play in the event.

Since joining the tour in 2004, Poulter, with his tartan trousers and dandy-ish tendencies, has been one the more colorful personalities strolling the fairways...and thus one of the more divisive.

However, on a tour which seems rife with blandness and complacency (it’s easy to not care too much about winning when nearly the top 100 players on the money list are making $1 million), Poulter’s comments are refreshing. 

Poulter called Friday’s round a “bad day in the office.” Things only got worse from there. He had nearly as many bogeys as birdies on Saturday, while the leaders were shooting four and five under. On Sunday, a very clearly angry and exhausted Poulter shot 40 on the back nine to finish in 17th place—out of 18 golfers.

His candor, here, is welcome. I'd rather see a golfer say "I played horribly today and I'm not happy," than talk about "positives" and "progress." Better Poulter's disgust with his play than Adam Scott's "I shouldn't let this get me down" attitude after his repugnant loss at the Open Championship this year.

On his Twitter account Saturday, the Englishman referred to his performance as “disgraceful,” and labelled himself “rubbish.” This was, of course, prior to the aforementioned 40 on the inward nine, which was coupled with, we might expect, an irresistible compulsion to hop his private jet and head home.

Even with his overwhelming desire to get home to his family for the holidays after several weeks on the road, Poulter was still consumed with revulsion at his poor play. He was upset that he didn't contend for an insignificant, non-PGA Tour sanctioned tournament where the vast majority of the 18 competitors were likely mailing it in, knowing they were set for a payday no matter how poor their performances.

However, the idea of showing up just to play four rounds and collect a paycheck bothered Poulter, as it should a tournament golfer.

To my knowledge, Poulter didn’t do anything like this, or this, during the tournament. However, some in the Twitterverse took issue with his lack of restraint, to which Poulter said the following, “Relax friends it's not illegal to be pissed off and show some frustration. I can put my club back in my bag whatever speed I like. Thank you.”

Exactly so. I don't endorse club throwing or streams of profanity, but I expect great players to be upset by a poor shot or a poor performance. True, the golfer must stay in the moment and focus on the shot at hand, but in the immediate aftermath of a butchered approach shot, I don't expect serenity. Further, serenity doesn't make for compelling television.

Say what you will about Ian Poulter—Rich Lerner’s comments in a 2010 Golf Digest feature come to mind:

I distinctly remember what I thought when I saw Ian Poulter in those Union Jack trousers at the British Open in 2004. Instead of wearing your country's flag, how about raising it in victory? It was hard to take him seriously. Six years later, Poulter, 34, is more than a sartorial sideshow.

Poulter is more than just a spikey-haired fop with golf club in hand—he is a gritty competitor. He is the most dominant Ryder Cup player in recent memory and a 16-time winner across all professional golf tours.

The PGA Tour could use more players with obvious passion who engage their fans through Twitter the way Ian Poulter does. Poulter is passionate and he wants to win. Whether you love him or hate him, as a golf fan, you must respect him for his competitive fire. 

More of the tartaned-one's tweets, below.