Poulter dresses funny, but is serious player
CARLSBAD, Calif. -- He often wears plaid pink slacks -- or maybe green -- just because he thinks it's cool.
He also dons a golf shirt that's a size too small and a rumpled mess of hair that makes it seem like he just rolled out of bed.
And no, he's not your grandfather.
In fact, he's a trendsetter, perhaps the most stylish -- and most copied -- golfer in the world today.
The man's name is Ian Poulter. He just happens to be a six-time worldwide winner, a European Ryder Cup team member and one of the brightest young stars around.
That's right, he's young, as in 29 years old -- not very grandfatherly at all, despite the sprouting image of a Palm Springs retiree upon mention of his duds.
Seriously, are professional golfers supposed to wear pants that look like a Union Jack flag? Or a cow? Well, Poulter does.
Unlike the late Payne Stewart, who stood out from the PGA Tour crowd in plus-fours and a tam o'shanter, Poulter has seen others embrace and emulate his attire. Darren Clarke, Fredrik Jacobson and Charles Howell III have all adopted pieces of Poulter's style.
But the really strange thing about him, even more perplexing than the hairdo and wardrobe that have become his signature, is the fact that none of this seems to define his character.
When Poulter speaks in that thick English accent, he actually sounds ... normal.
"My game is in shape," he said before the start of the Accenture Match Play Championship. "I think it's good enough to go out and win any tournament I play right now. I just do need to be 100 percent focused and concentrate."
Outlandish? Radical? Uh, not quite. Those who watch Poulter on television or run into him on the street might expect to find someone who wants to defy the establishment that is professional golf.
Instead what they find is a man who lets his golf do the talking for him. And it's had a lot to say recently. He followed up a trip to the quarterfinals of last year's Match Play by going one step further this time around. Poulter defeated Jim Furyk, Stuart Appleby, Rory Sabbatini and Nick O'Hern -- all of whom were ranked better than him -- before falling to David Toms in Saturday's semifinal match.
"You can't look too far forward in this game," Poulter said earlier this week. "And even being 2 or 3 up, your mind just flickers quickly, and you want to get the win in as quick as you can, and then you have to concentrate and get back down to work. But the tougher the opponent, obviously the better the concentration is."
Proving himself as a gritty match play competitor has always been one of Poulter's main goals. He'll be a stalwart on the European Ryder Cup team for years to come and is part of a British Invasion of twenty-somethings -- including Paul Casey, Luke Donald, David Howell and Nick Dougherty -- who may conjure thoughts of Faldo and Woosie before their days are done.
This year, Poulter will bring his style to the PGA Tour, planning to play about 20 events on U.S. soil. What should we expect? Plenty more successful efforts, like Poulter had at La Costa.
After all, you can never really count a guy out who sports bracelets that read, "Believe" and "Impossible is Nothing," as Poulter did this week.
Even if he is wearing pink pants.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com
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