Ian Poulter: 'Even my kids are frightened when they see that picture'
Europe's Ryder Cup beast has finally been released from his cage again. The crazy, wild, staring eyes, the double-fisted air punching, the gut-wrenching war cry - it's all coming back.
And it is not just the Americans who are intimidated by Europe's talisman, Ian Poulter. His children dive behind the sofa when they see daddy's passion on the television.
Are they amazed by that image of him? "No, I think they're scared," Poulter said. And what does the man himself think? "Yes, yes, very scary," he said, then laughed.
Can he see how he might frighten people? "Yeah, I guess I can," he said. "I'm showing my emotion like Seve (Ballesteros), like Ollie (Jose-Maria Olazabal), like Monty (Colin Montgomerie), like Woosie (Ian Woosnam), like (Sam) Torrance, like all the guys through the years that have ever played Ryder Cup. It means so much. It just comes out naturally."
The 38-year-old was the catalyst for Europe's Miracle of Medinah comeback victory in Chicago in 2012 and has won 11 of his last 12 matches.
His earth-shaking performances have earned him the right to be mentioned among the legends of the European game and to be singled out by United States captain Tom Watson as the main target to be taken down, ahead even of world No 1 Rory McIlroy.
"I'm very proud that I've put a lot of blue on the board," said Poulter. "I'm passionate as a team player, and to be mentioned with the likes of Seve and Monty and those players is an absolute honour - and for Tom to say that is amazing."
Such is the trance that Poulter coaxes himself into at the Ryder Cup, he does not even notice how his opponents react when his putts roll in.
"I'm not sure whether I've ever looked at them to find out whether they are intimidated. I know what they will think when I hole that putt," he said.
Poulter is so in the moment that he pays not a thought to the reaction from the huge global television audience. "I think I put more pressure on myself than the millions or billions or however many people are out there wanting me to hole putts," he said.
The player with the best insight into what transforms Poulter into a giant every two years is Justin Rose, his long-time friend and Ryder Cup partner.
What lies inside the man with the scariest eyes in golf?
"His reaction to making a putt is that he looks around and he brings everybody in, but he's got the amazing ability to shut everything out," Rose said.
"When he's in the zone, his eyes are not really taking everything in. They are very focused on the putt. You can just see his eyes running up and down the line. He gets very channelled and that is the only way to play under pressure."
Poulter's season has been plagued by injury and poor form, but Rose believes he is about to conjure up his trademark biennial magic.
"He just needs a spark," Rose said. "And the spark could well be the Ryder Cup. When his back is against the wall, he normally produces."
The spark is not just mental but also physical.
"Just the pride of what it means to put the shirt on, to walk over the bridge and through the tunnel (to the first tee) and soak up the electricity that you get from the crowd is the biggest adrenalin rush you could ever possibly have," Poulter said.
"It's been a long time to wait. You want to play more and more of them, because they are very fulfilling and you don't get that experience in any other form of golf.
"When we perform in Majors, it's just not the same, and that's why you see so many great moments in the Ryder Cup. I loved my football as a kid, and I think I played football back in the day like I play golf right now."
Most players talk about how they battle to keep their nerves in check - but not Poulter. "You don't need to control it," he said. "You don't need to calm down. You've been waiting for it for a long time, so you just need to grab hold of it and let it go - and that's what you see when I play in this format."
So get ready for the return of the eyes-a-popping, putt-making, American heart-breaking, fist-pumping Ian Poulter. There will be fist pumping, won't there? "We're on home soil," Poulter said. "I'm sure it will be seen. Once or twice." (© Independent News Service)