x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Ian Poulter finally surrenders to ‘hottest player on the planet’

Ian Poulter’s past few performances should alleviate any lingering personal pain, in finishing second to Henrik Stenson both for the DP World Tour Championship tournament at the Race to Dubai final standings. He has come home 15th, second, fifth and runner-up again in the final four events and says he has never played better.

England's Ian Poulter had sight of Sweden's Henrik Stenson but could draw no closer in the final round.  Ali Haider / EPA
England's Ian Poulter had sight of Sweden's Henrik Stenson but could draw no closer in the final round. Ali Haider / EPA

DUBAI // Ian Poulter grabbed his caddie’s chalky towel and made his way to the 18th green, where he greeted Henrik Stenson with a figurative waving of the white flag.

The Englishman was not simply surrendering to, in his words, “the hottest player on the planet right now” following further exclamatory evidence of that talent around Jumeirah Golf Estates on Sunday, but accepting defeat in a little wager placed a few weeks back.

The good friends have traded stakes and banter regarding the Race to Dubai title ever since, with Poulter ultimately paying.

Having been beaten to the line, he must now recompense Stenson with US$100 (Dh367).

Stenson could breathe a rather hefty sigh of relief, given his end of the bargain involved performing butler duties to Poulter for a day. It had actually served him well this week, with Stenson describing it as “probably the biggest motivator” on his way to a masterful victory at the Earth Course.

Poulter could do little but doff his cap to the supreme Swede.

And anyway, presenting the $100 will not make too much of a dent; with a second-place finish in both the DP World Tour Championship and the season-long Race, Poulter pocketed upwards of €1.3 million (Dh6.4m).

“I would expect him to be rather relieved, to be honest with you,” said Poulter, when quizzed about Stenson. “I’ve thrown a lot at him the past four weeks and given him so much stick, so I’m sure he’s a relieved man.”

Poulter’s past few performances should alleviate any lingering personal pain, too. He has run Stenson close during this inaugural Final Series, coming home 15th, second, fifth and runner-up again in its four events. He said he has never played better.

“It’s been a good four weeks,” Poulter said. “I’ve been trying to make sure I made a big push at the end of the year. I would’ve expected with my form to have won at least one of these events, but I’ve come up against some stiff opposition and the guys have beat me fair and square.”

Poulter has two more attempts to circle in on that elusive 2013 victory. He will resurface early next month at Tiger Woods’s tournament in suburban Los Angeles before teaming up “for a bit of fun” with Lee Westwood at the Franklin Templeton Shootout.

“I’d hate to go winless this year,” he said. “Especially with the type of form I’m in.”

He intends to keep climbing that upward curve.

Poulter will replicate his late-season preparations early next term as well, taking five weeks off to ensure he arrives Race-ready at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on January 16.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed this chase as it’s brought a lot of good golf out of me. I got relatively close, but at the last minute Henrik’s just pressed that foot down and pulled away again.

“I’ll keep working hard and hopefully come out at the start of the year firing.”

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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