Ian Poulter says Tiger Woods’ comeback has been “inspirational” as the Englishman prepares to make his return to Europe’s Ryder Cup team from the “low of lows” less than two years ago.
Poulter, 42, was only a vice-captain in 2016 following a foot injury.
He has competed for Europe at five previous Ryder Cups, taking 14 points from 18 matches.
“It was difficult being vice-captain last time knowing how I’d helped the team in the past,” said Poulter.
“This time around I felt I really wanted to make the team and felt if I worked hard, restructured things, I could definitely make this Ryder Cup team – which I have.”
Poulter ended 2016 ranked 184th in the world, although that pales in comparison to American 14-time major winner Woods, who had plummeted to 1,199 at the end of 2017.Woods, having already been named as a captain’s pick by US captain Jim Furyk, marked his own comeback from injury and personal problems by claiming a first win in five years at the Tour Championship in Atlanta last weekend.
“There were definitely question marks when I was struggling a bit and I looked to see where he has been – it is quite inspirational to see how good he’s come back,” added Poulter, who is now ranked 34th in the world – 21 places behind Woods.
“For the Ryder Cup it is great and it is good to have Tiger Woods playing the type of golf he is playing because he makes the Ryder Cup even more special.”
Woods & Mickelson hoping to change USA fortunes
Tiger Woods, 42, said he was hoping to improve his own relatively poor record (13 wins, 17 losses and three halves) and help end USA’s 25-year barren run on foreign soil.
“My record is something I don’t enjoy or like seeing,” he said, having only been part of one victorious team from seven appearances.
“I’ve played in a lot of those matches – I only sat out one session. We haven’t done well. The year we won, in 2008, I had reconstruction surgery and didn’t play. My overall record, not having won as a player since 1999, is hopefully something we can change.”
Phil Mickelson, another wildcard pick, has been on three winning teams, although he has also yet to win on foreign soil.
The 48-year-old said: “This is an event for all of us to cherish and be a part of. Everyone plays an integral part of the puzzle, but because I’ve played in these for so long and not won over here it is one I would cherish the most.
“If we were to do that it would be something I’d remember for the rest of my life.”
‘The best team I’ve been part of’
Open champion Francesco Molinari is also returning to the European team this week at Le Golf National in Paris having been part of successful teams in 2010 and 2012 with Poulter.
The 35-year-old became the first Italian to win a major when he claimed the Open Championship at Carnoustie in July.
“I think I’ve improved as a player a lot since 2012 and I hope to show that on the course this week,” he said.
“There are 12 players and we are really capable of great golf. I think this is the best team I’ve been part of.”
Englishman Tyrrell Hatton is one of five rookies in the European side this week, along with Tommy Fleetwood, Spain’s Jon Rahm, Sweden’s Alexander Noren and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen.
“It is a dream come true,” said the 26-year-old Hatton. “You watch the Ryder Cup as a kid and you want to be there when you grow up so to make the team you feel very honoured – it’s a fantastic team
“This week if I can keep my head that will give me the best chance to play as well as I can and hopefully that gets rewarded with some points for Europe.”
Hatton is the only player in the European team not to have a top-10 finish at Le Golf National, which currently hosts the French Open, a title Fleetwood won last year.
“It’s difficult to say how much of an advantage it will be. It can’t do any harm that we’ve played the course many times and know it better,” said 2018 US Open runner-up Fleetwood.
“I played the French Open four times and didn’t do any good and on the fifth time I won.”
European captain Thomas Bjorn paired Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, FedEx Cup winner Justin Rose and Noren in Tuesday’s first practice group, with Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey, Olesen and Rahm following in the second.
Fleetwood, Molinari, Hatton and Poulter were in group three after completing their media commitments earlier in the morning.
“I’m pretty set in my mind where I want to go with this from the beginning, and over the two days with pairings things can change a lot, but I am pretty set in my mind,” said Bjorn, who was on the winning side in his three appearances as a player in 1997, 2002 and 2014.
“Today is very much about getting everyone out there and enjoying themselves. They are all out there and getting their bearings and getting to know what the golf course is like this week. Today is a very relaxed day.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean they will be paired together. I don’t feel like I’ve given anything away in what is happening out on the golf course today.”
Bjorn also confirmed the teams are wearing yellow ribbons this week in honour of Spanish golfer Celia Barquin Arozamena, who was found killed on a golf course in the US last week.
“The golfing family extends beyond what we are trying to do this week and those events in America with Celia being killed playing golf is something that hit everyone in the golf family, and obviously our two Spanish players, very much,” added Bjorn.
Spanish former Masters champion Garcia dedicated his first round at last week’s Portugal Masters to the 22-year-old, who won the European Ladies Amateur Championship less than two months before her death.