Off-key Poulter makes belated impact at Ryder Cup

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GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) — Ian Poulter arrived at the Ryder Cup as the beating heart of the European team and the man the Americans wanted to take down.

For nearly two rounds at Gleneagles, he struggled to show why.

Poulter slumped to his heaviest ever Ryder Cup defeat in Friday's morning fourballs, was dropped for the afternoon foursomes and said he "kind of fell asleep" for much of Saturday's final fourballs match alongside top-ranked Rory McIlroy.

Then Poulter woke up.

The Englishman chipped in from off the green on No. 15 and made a birdie at the next hole to inspire a comeback against Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker.

He let his emotions flow on both holes — he thumped his chest, he repeatedly pumped his fists, he eyeballed spectators. It was the Poulter who launched the "Miracle of Medinah" two years ago.

"It was waiting to come out," Poulter said. "It took way too long for it to do so."

A half point from a see-saw match kept Europe in front after three sessions, but is Poulter's only contribution from two matches this week. "The Postman," as he has become known, hasn't delivered.

"Second-class post," Poulter said.

For the second straight day, he was left out of the afternoon matches as captain Paul McGinley preferred Martin Kaymer to partner Justin Rose, with whom Poulter won four points from five matches in Ryder Cups in 2008 and '12.

Poulter was a favorite to play five times this week, but will only play three. Expect him to be fired up for Sunday's singles matches.

"Obviously I haven't played my best golf," he said. "You have to stay positive. You have to keep telling yourself the good stuff's coming.

"There's no egos on this team," Poulter added. "There are 12 great players that all want to play golf and you have respect the captain's decision."

Poulter teamed up with rookie Stephen Gallacher in a 5-and-4 loss to Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed on Friday, and wasn't comfortable playing the senior figure. McGinley thought he would get a response by putting Poulter "on the shoulder of the world's best player" — McIlroy — and opening Saturday's match with back-to-back birdies suggested a return to form for Poulter.

Poulter, however, only contributed scores in two of the next 12 holes as Walker and Fowler recovered from being 2 down, before his crucial intervention on No. 15.

Fowler had sent his approach to within four feet, setting up a great birdie chance, and Poulter was just off the green in 2. He pitched over the bunker and the ball skipped along the green before rolling at a good pace straight into the cup. It prevented the Europeans from going 2 down with three holes to play.

"As soon as he chipped in, I was like, 'Here we go again,'" McIlroy said. McGinley, who was following the match, chuckled.

It was an all-too-rare highlight of a frustrating two days for Poulter. For now, Rose — with wins in his first three matches — has taken over as the team's inspirational figure.

There's still one more day, though, for Poulter to preserve his lofty Ryder Cup reputation.

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