Ryder Cup omens? Come back in 7 months

Ian Poulter (right) is congratulated by Paul Casey after his 4-and-2 victory in the finals of the Accenture Match Play Championship.

Ian Poulter (right) is congratulated by Paul Casey after his 4-and-2 victory in the finals of the Accenture Match Play Championship.

There’s been considerable crowing on this side of the pond over Ian Poulter winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play, especially since two Englishmen contested the final.

I don’t think Poulter’s win will mean much in seven months, when a little exhibition match takes places in Wales.

On a personal note, I was glued to my TV watching Poulter take down Paul Casey. Poulter is a friend of mine. I know how hard he works, how much self-belief he has and was pleased to see him take another step forward in what has truly been a rags-to-riches story.

This is the guy, remember, who turned professional with a 4 handicap. It isn’t that long ago that he was an assistant professional selling tees and giving lessons to handicap golfers, and driving around in a clapped-out car dreaming of making it as a touring pro.

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Colin Montgomerie at the Royal Trophy.

If ever there was a player to inspire youngsters, then Poulter is it. He is living proof that dreams can be attained against the odds if you want them badly enough.

Yet no matter how impressive his first PGA Tour win, I just don’t read the same omens into the victory as some of my English peers.

Listen to some pundits and we might as well announce Europe as winner of the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, Wales in October. Somehow two Englishmen in the Match Play final has morphed into almost certain victory for Europe. I’m not buying that one even if I wish it were true.

I seem to remember the last time two Americans were in the Match Play final in a Ryder Cup year the United States didn’t fare too well in the Ryder Cup. That was in 2004, when Tiger Woods defeated Davis Love III. It didn’t turn out to be a great omen for the United States. Seven months later, Europe romped to its biggest Ryder Cup victory, 18 1/2 to 9 1/2.

It’s only February. Who knows what form Poulter and Casey will be in come October?

What should please European captain Colin Montgomerie is that Poulter and Casey are now almost guaranteed to be on the team he takes to Celtic Manor. Ditto for Sergio Garcia, who lost in the semifinals.

Considering the number of potential rookies Montgomerie might have on his team – Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Ross Fisher, Alvaro Quiros, to name a few – he’ll be keen to see experienced players like Poulter & Co. earn their places as early as possible. He’ll want a strong backbone in place to compliment the rookies.

It also gives him more leeway with his wild card picks, since he won’t have to waste a pick on Poulter, Casey or Garcia.

So Montgomerie will no doubt be in a positive mood at this point in time. However, he knows more than most that anything can happen in 18-hole match play and probably will.

In other words, Monty shouldn’t begin writing his victory speech just yet.

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