Ian Poulter walked into the Medinah clubhouse to register for the BMW Championship and immediately felt at home.
On the walls leading to the locker room were photos of great moments in Medinah history, a course in the Chicago suburbs that has hosted the U.S. Open three times, the PGA Championship twice and the Ryder Cup.
One photo stood out immediately from the most recent big event — the 2012 Ryder Cup.
“The first picture you see as you through the door to the locker room is me laying down on the green praying that Rory (McIlroy) was going to hole that putt from the fringe on 18 so I didn’t have to hole mine,” Poulter said. “But I’m there laying on the ground with my hat up trying to help read his putt.”
Poulter made his putt, a moment that turned what looked to be a U.S. rout into a stunning victory for Europe, the biggest comeback by a visiting team.
Medinah is where Tiger Woods twice won the PGA Championship. It’s where McIlroy met a PGA of America employee who eventually became his wife, and it’s where he mixed up the time zone, realized he was late to Sunday singles and needed a police escort to get there in the nick of time.
But of the 69 players in the field for this FedEx Cup playoff event, memories might be strongest for Poulter.
This is where he left his mark. This is where he lived up to his nickname, “The Postman,” because he always delivers.
The Americans had a five-point lead as Saturday afternoon fourballs were winding down when Poulter closed with five straight birdies for a 1-up victory over Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner. The following day, he beat Webb Simpson, 2 up, as Europe rallied to win.
What does he remember about that Saturday afternoon magic?
Poulter looked at his watch and replied, “I’m teeing off in an hour and 57 minutes. I don’t think I can quite go into all of it.” He gave an abbreviated version, and it was clear he could have talked until he was late to the tee for his pro-am time.
He could use another week like that one.
Poulter is No. 43 in the FedEx Cup, meaning he will need at least something in the top 10 to have any chance to reach the FedEx Cup finale next week at East Lake in Atlanta. If he doesn’t? He gets an extra week off. Poulter was on the verge of losing his PGA Tour card two years ago, settled some distractions off the golf course, won the Houston Open last year and now is No. 30 in the world.
Life is good, golf is good.
Still, getting to Atlanta has become a personal quest.
It was 10 years ago in the Chicago area that Poulter hit his second into the water on the 18th hole at Cog Hill, which cost him getting into the top 30 by a fraction. He was tied for 30th, leading to a rare case where the PGA Tour had to stretch out the points to the hundredths.
Yes, he remembers that, too.
“I was sitting on the plane tied 30th, delighted to go to East Lake and then being told the plane is going somewhere else,” he said.
The memory is strong, though there are no hard feelings. Poulter gives himself a break because the Englishman plays the PGA Tour and European Tour, effectively giving up playing opportunities in America to support Europe. He has never played more than 20 PGA Tour events in a year.
He’s OK with that. He lives in Orlando, Florida, with his wife and four children. He has his exotic cars, mostly Ferrari’s that he purchased as an investment.
He also has a Ford sedan that cost him only $7,000. That one is special in its own right. It was the state trooper’s car that had brought McIlroy to Medinah for his Sunday singles match, which he won over Keegan Bradley.
“It got him here in time. Otherwise, the car wasn’t worth the money it was paid for,” Poulter said.
He already has refurbished the interior, with McIlroy’s signature etched into the seats and an engraving of the Ryder Cup.
“I think the long-term picture for the car is to get a full paint job and etch all around the entire car the history of the Ryder Cup, and then allow it to be used for charity events so people can see the car, take it out for a drive and do whatever at events.”
Bradley, the defending champion of the BMW Championship, was asked what he would have done with the car if he could have bought it.
“I’d probably buy it and smash it up somewhere, put it in the lake,” he said with a laugh.
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