Column: A tough guy in magenta stops US rout

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So Poulter decided to do it first, urging the crowd to yell and scream as he hit his first drive. There would be no first tee intimidation on this day.

Poulter and Rose would go on to win that match, the only one the Europeans took in the opening session. For most of the afternoon, though, it looked as though his streak had run out when he and McIlroy struggled against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson.

Then Poulter went on a run that will be part of Ryder Cup lore.

By the time he made his third birdie in a row, curling in an 18-footer on the tough par-4 16th, he and McIlroy were suddenly up. He matched birdies on the tricky par-3 17th with Johnson and had a 12-footer for birdie to win the match after Dufner made one of his own.

His teammates gathered around the 18th green to watch knew it was in before it left the putter. They call Poulter “The Postman” because in the Ryder Cup he always seems to deliver.

“I’ve got me teammates right behind me,” Poulter said. “I’m not going to miss it for them, am I?”

It’s that kind of attitude that endears him to his colleagues and irritates his opponents. He’s become the guy on the European team no one likes to face, as much for his fiery demeanor as his impressive record.

Olazabal said Poulter reminded him of the late Seve Ballesteros, who thrived in the format.

” I think the Ryder Cup should build a statue for him, you know? You know, that’s Poulter,” Olazabal said. “That’s why we say that he has such a special character for this event. He thrives at this event. He loves to be on the spotlight. He loves to be in that kind of situations.”

On Sunday, mild-mannered U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson will be that opponent as Poulter tries to kick-start yet another comeback. With Europe trailing 10-6, Olazabal sent off Poulter in the second of 12 matches, just ahead of McIlroy. The best of the European team goes out early as Olazabal tries to mimic the strategy of the 1999 U.S. team that came back to win from the same score at Brookline.

Instead of being cheered to victory as the U.S. team was back then, the Europeans will find themselves up against not only the Americans but a loose and loud Chicago crowd.

“That’s fine by me,” Poulter said. “I guess I’ve had a bull’s eye on my back for a while. Guys want to beat me, That’s fine. I want to beat them just as bad as they want to beat me, and I’m not going to roll over. I’m going to go down blazing. It’s dead simple.”

If that sounds intimidating, it should be.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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