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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ian Poulter figured he can beat Tiger Woods

THE outspoken Ian Poulter has claimed he is the only player capable of challenging the supremacy of world No 1 Tiger Woods.

"The trouble is I don't rate anyone else," the 32-year-old Englishman was quoted as saying in the March edition of Golf World magazine. "Don't get me wrong, I really respect every professional golfer, but I know I haven't played to my full potential and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger."

Never mind that Poulter, ranked 22nd in the world, has won just seven events in nine years as a regular on the European Tour or that his best finish in the majors last year was 13th at Augusta.

The Ryder Cup player, has added a welcome touch of pigment in recent years to the often wan fabric of golf by wearing flamboyant clothes and talking a pretty good game. The long-standing suspicion Poulter, 32, was a cheeky chappy who didn't take himself too seriously, however, has been undermined by comments he may live to regret.

Any prospect of him running over the top of Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh, Adam Scott, his friend Justin Rose and all the rest of golf's leading lights over the coming years to set up a personal rivalry with Tiger on a par with the duels between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus can't be justified by the evidence.

Always a self-assured individual – no one lacking in confidence, after all, would wear Union Jack trousers in a golf tournament – the extent of his bravado has been kept in check, up until now. Speaking before his debut in the Masters a couple of years back, Poulter reflected: "Some people think I'm arrogant, but I've been able to match all the talk out on the course. I'm not going to change for anyone. But if you're going to be outspoken then you'd better go out there and produce some stuff to stop yourself looking a complete plonker."

As far as the Golf World interview is concerned, Poulter claims that he's been misquoted, while the magazine insists they read the article back to him before publication. Either way, there's a fine line between high spirited attention seeking and brash conceit which Poulter seems to have crossed in this latest bout of self-promotion.

Standing naked in front of a golf bag, his claim that he'll win a major this year and become the main challenger to Woods leaves the player open to ridicule.

On the other hand, those who regard him as a welcome breath of fresh air in a stuffy sport think too much fuss is being made over next to nothing. As Zane Scotland remarked: "Everyone knows what he's like. He's more outgoing than most and it's just how he talks."

Having once worked in a professional's shop, turned pro with a handicap of 4 and learned to compete on the Hippo Tour before graduating from the Challenge Tour to the European Tour, there's much to admire about a player who has made his own way in the game.

As yet, though, Poulter's record suggests he's a good golfer, not a great one. Results rather than roister will be needed to change that perception.



Born: 10 Jan 1976
Nationality: English
Height: 6ft 1in
Weight: 189lb
Turned pro: 1995
World ranking: 22
Career earnings: $4,166,557
Tournament wins: 9
Major wins: 0


Born: 30 Dec 1975
Nationality: American
Height: 6ft 1in
Weight: 185lb
Turned pro: 1996
World ranking: 1
Career earnings: $77,515,376
Tournament wins: 85
Major wins: 13 (4 Masters, 2 US Opens, 3 Opens, 4 USPGAs)

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