LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Ian Poulter promised to bring flair, excitement and passion to the European Ryder Cup team.
Friday morning, he forgot to bring his putter.
Poulter and fellow Englishman Justin Rose stumbled in their foursome match, squandering a three-hole lead over Chad Campbell and Stewart Cink en route to a 1-up loss.
It wasn’t the fashionable start envisioned by Poulter, a controversial wild-card pick by European captain Nick Faldo. He and Rose will try to salvage the day in the afternoon when they face Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis in four-ball.
“You don’t do too much wrong but a bit of luck not going your way and a couple of poor shots and we got punished for it,” Poulter said. “It’s a shame. We felt we were in decent control of that match.”
Faldo coupled Poulter and Rose, a Ryder Cup rookie, hoping their friendship would calm any nerves on either side.
Wearing matching blue visors and white belts to go with their European team polo shirts and gray slacks, they looked at ease while racing into the lead as Campbell struggled with his driver.
Things changed on the back nine. The Americans surged after a pep talk from captain Paul Azinger, while Rose and Poulter kept finding ways to get into trouble.
Rose hit into the bunker on No. 11, and Poulter ran his bunker shot 15-feet past the hole leading to a bogey. They gave up the lead on the short par-4 13th when Poulter dunked his approach in the water.
Still, a pair of brilliant shots kept them in it. Poulter hit a tricky flop shot out of the rough from 80 yards to within inches to salvage a half at the 16th.
Poulter, under wraps most of the round, flipped his club over his shoulder after the ball came up inches short, while Rose tried to wave it into the hole on the green.
A little imagination on the 17th almost gave the Europeans the lead. Poulter’s second shot flew over the green, and after a short talk, Rose eschewed a chip and putted the ball through the fringe with a utility club. It came up just short, and Campbell drilled an 8-footer to leave the match tied heading into the 18th.
It was all the momentum the Americans needed.
Poulter put his drive in the fairway on 18, but Rose’s approach came up short. Poulter splashed out of the bunker 10 feet by the hole. With Faldo watching from the back of the green, Poulter got down on his belly to help Rose read the putt.
It didn’t help.
Rose pushed the ball six feet past, and when Poulter couldn’t make the comebacker, the Americans had escaped.
“We need to rally,” Rose said.
Poulter’s selection raised some eyebrows, particularly in Europe where many thought longtime Ryder Cup star Darren Clarke was a more deserving of a captain’s pick.
Poulter’s decision to skip a chance to secure an automatic spot on the team by choosing to play in a lucrative PGA Tour event in Boston rather than a European Tour event in Scotland led some to speculate Faldo had already assured Poulter a berth on the team.
Poulter pledged to prove his worthiness despite a shaky season in which his best finish was a runner-up at the British Open. He had just one top-10 outside of that and came to Valhalla having missed his last two cuts.