Ian Poulter barely had enough money for a car with four decent tyres, much less for a weekend getaway to see the Ryder Cup for the first time. He was 17 and just starting a job at Jack O' Legs Golf Centre, where his primary task was folding shirts.

No matter. Poulter rounded up two of his best mates, packed up a small tent and some cheap food and they were on their way. They found a house down the road from The Belfry, where the owners let them pitch their tent in a backyard garden for £3 a night.

It turned out to be worth every pence.

"Three guys in a small, confined space, eating tin food each night and a few bottles of wine," Poulter said.


"She used to let us go in the house and wash up, and then we would go to sleep and get up in the morning and walk to the golf course. I was there when Nick Faldo had his hole-in-one. I remember thinking, 'I want a piece of that.' That to me was the turning point. It was ... 'Wow!' I had never heard anything like that.

"Wouldn't it be great to do that myself?"

That was in 1993. Faldo and Paul Azinger battled to a draw in a singles match that was meaningless except to them, and to a 17-year-old English lad in the gallery who was mesmerised by the spectacle. By then, the Americans had clinched the cup, the decisive point delivered by a Ryder Cup rookie named Davis Love III.

Love is now the captain of the US team that will try to win back the cup on September 28-30 at Medinah.

Poulter, with wide eyes and wild dreams, will try to keep that from happening. He has emerged as one of the most passionate players for Europe. In a career that seems to defy the odds at every turn, this is his fourth Ryder Cup. Not only has he won every singles match, he ended them all before getting to the 17th hole.

"He just loves it, you know?" Luke Donald said. "He gets so fired up. He loves the battle over 18 holes, and I do, too."

Poulter has never felt as though he let his emotions cross the line. That's something he won't apologise for, not in the Ryder Cup.

"It's the biggest spectacle in golf," he said. "Your team needs to hear that reverberate around the golf course. They need that roar. They need that passion. That's what makes it the best tournament in the world."

Asked what gives him the biggest buzz in life, Poulter rates the Ryder Cup behind the birth of his four children, and ahead of the time he climbed behind the wheel of a Formula One car in the south of France and took it up to 290km/h.

"I think he gets the best out of playing the Ryder Cup," European captain Jose Maria Olazabal said after using a wild-card selection on Poulter.

"The two times I had the opportunity to share a few moments with him, at Valhalla and Celtic Manor, you didn't need to motivate him. You know just by looking at his eyes that he would give everything that he had during that week."

That much is clear by the endless fist pumps and guttural screams when he holes putts from across the green or chips in for birdie.