Poulter rises to No. 5 in world with win
MARANA, Ariz. -- It was a sorry day for purveyors of plain. Khaki was conquered; vanilla was vanquished; boring was bulldozed. A man with bleached, spiked hair and dark shades, clad head-to-toe in a hue of pink most often found on a Sunday morning bagel with a shmear, won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Flash ran away with the cash.
Golfers of different generations are recalled for their sartorial splendor. The very first Open Championship competitors donned tam o'shanter caps and knickers. Those in Bobby Jones' era tucked neckties into their button-downs. Forty years ago, tight golf shirts and plaid pants were all the rage.
If there is a classic example of today's fairway fashionistas, it's Ian Poulter. So smitten with color schemes and fabric swatches is the Englishman that he developed his own clothing line, also serving as its principal model. The luminous, lucid colors may not always match, but they do match his personality.
Superstar golfers usually achieve such status based on performance. Poulter is a born superstar whose game is finally catching up to his disposition.
His victory over Paul Casey in the 36-hole final at Ritz-Carlton GC was his first career win in the U.S., though he does own eight international titles and runner-up results at both the Open Championship and Players Championship in recent years.
Still, one overwhelming image remains when thoughts turn to him: The dude with the pants.
"For me, it's a business and one that I'm very passionate about," Poulter said. "I take pride and care on how I present myself on the golf course. And a lot of people haven't really seen it that way over the last few years. But I iron all my clothes for every match and I want to go out on the golf course looking good. So that's my prerogative."
It's not all about the clothes, though. Poulter is just as flashy off the course, owning a fleet of cars that includes two new purchases -- a Ferrari California and a Mercedes S63 AMG. He once posed for a magazine cover wearing nothing but a golf bag. And his boldness extends to his rhetoric, the result of which has left him the subject of controversy in the past.
It was just more than two years ago when he boasted to U.K. magazine GolfWorld about his impending rise in the Official World Golf Ranking, "Don't get me wrong, I really respect every professional golfer, but I know I haven't played to my full potential and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger [Woods]."
At the time, Poulter was ranked 22nd and ridiculed for such audacity. Though he maintains the comments were blown out of proportion, his message is nearly intact. With Sunday's win, he now ascends to No. 5 in the world, behind only Woods, Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood.
"I just felt that if I could deliver what I believed I could, then I could put myself in a good position," he said after beating Casey, 4 and 2. "I've certainly done that over the last 18 months and I've certainly been able to deliver that [Sunday]. It's so nice to see myself at No. 5 and get higher and higher up the world rankings and hopefully can keep going in that direction."
"He'll tell you exactly what he's thinking, which always makes me smile about Ian," Casey said after earning his second straight runner-up finish at this event. "But if Ian believes that, and he does, then there's no reason why he couldn't get to that spot. Because for me, it's not about talent; it's about work ethic and belief and all the rest of it, all the other attributes that go into being a great golfer. And he's worked incredibly hard."
Call him brazen and cocky or believable and confident, but Poulter has proven he refuses to mince words when it comes to assessing his production and potential. During a week when he defeated Justin Leonard, Adam Scott, Jeev Milkha Singh, Thongchai Jaidee and Sergio Garcia in succession prior to beating his friend Casey, his self-belief never wavered.
"My short game certainly this week has been as good as it's ever been," said Poulter, who posted 31 birdies in 114 holes over six matches. "The last 12 months, it's been up there with the best of them."
In today's Tiger-free interval of professional golf, it's been suggested that the game needs brighter personalities reaching the winner's circle. Poulter has always owned the attitude of a superstar; now his game is catching up to his demeanor, meaning the guy in those crazy clothes may finally get noticed for some impressive golf, too.
Like he said, "I guess 5 in the world stands for more than just what I wear on the golf course."
Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.