Poulter hits the big time at end of extraordinary week
The week began with Lee Westwood championing the strong United Kingdom contingent and bemoaning the lack of recognition they receive for their enhanced world standing.
Although Westwood didn't live up to his billing, the two English finalists ensured that home golfers truly made their mark on the world game.
And by winning the prestigious WGC Matchplay Championship title by beating Paul Casey 4 and 2 in the final, Ian Poulter has stepped up to a new level. He became the first Englishman to win a WGC event and the first from the UK since Darren Clarke's win in this tournament back in 2000. It was also Poulter's first win on American soil.
The new rankings show him as the fifth best player in the world, and those much ridiculed comments of "there's only Tiger and me" of a couple of years ago are looking rather less outlandish.
This is a player who doesn't travel with a coach and has no time for the mind gurus. He has his own mental strength, and always has had from the moment he made up his handicap (four) when signing his forms to turn pro back in 1994.
Poulter has turned himself into one of the world's best players, someone who is ready to challenge for the game's greatest honours. He now leads the Race to Dubai and has all but cemented his place in the European Ryder Cup team. Captain Colin Montgomerie must be delighted.
Ian Poulter celebrates on the 16th after winning the final round of the Accenture Match Play Championship
Both finalists provided a fine advertisement for English, British and European golf in a thrilling final. Poulter and Casey's success in this big-money event is cause for great celebration.
In a week of first steps, they took a significant stride in ensuring our talented generation start to gain due recognition.
Unfortunately, the all-English final didn't capture the imagination of the Arizona public, with pitifully small crowds following the final. Much local interest was lost when the last American, Stewart Cink, bowed out on Friday evening.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem put the poor numbers down to Saturday's cold, wet and windy weather but did admit that the weekend attendances were not what he would have wanted.
Wentworth was always blessed with sizeable crowds for autumnal World Matchplay finals regardless of player nationalities and the weather. The slim galleries here further strengthen the argument for the WGC events to be spread further afield.
That said, this has been a wonderful tournament, a refreshing change for the norm. Poulter firmly believes there should be more matchplay on the schedule.
It's long been my feeling that all the WGC events (Doral, Akron and Shanghai) should be head to head to make them distinctive and give the golf season a matchplay thread that would identify interesting specialists in this format.
Why not create a league system? Reward wins but by incorporating plate rounds for losers they could still earn some points to boost their league tallies. They don't have to depart after just one round.
The top 16 points scorers could have a season ending WGC shoot-out.
Sadly, the sparse crowds that followed the all-England final will provide ammunition for those who believe in the almost exclusive diet of 72 hole strokeplay.
It has been an extraordinary week, with the championship only truly emerging from the shadow of Tiger Woods at the weekend. Woods was always going to be the dominant story from the moment he revealed he would break his silence last Friday.
Like it or not, even in self imposed/inflicted exile he drives the game. Why else would the PGA Tour have indulged him in staging his statement during the biggest tournament of the year to date?
Tour boss Finchem admitted he had "screwed up" by not informing the players here the reason behind the timing of Woods' appearance.
Since then, every word of the world number one's statement has been dissected in the American media and beyond. The TV networks, newspapers and blogs have voraciously fed on the story. Some have done so to examine the impact on golf, many to satisfy the voyeuristic tendencies of their audiences.
This blog has no intention of joining the frenzy, other than to point out (as it did last Wednesday) that Woods' timing was very poor and unfair to his fellow players.
They are right to feel annoyed, particularly with the Tour, for allowing them to be upstaged. The notion that Woods is bigger than the game was reinforced by this scheduling, and players were right to speak out.
They are also correct to say that the game needs him back. But this must surely be with the changed attitude he promises. As he acknowledged, deed is what counts - not the carefully controlled, choreographed and rehearsed words of his first step back into public life.
Woods has always been a control freak but shouldn't he heed the mantra used by so many athletes to "only control the controllable"? He can only influence the media; he can't dictate what it says or who it pursues.
A more open and engaging Woods when dealing with reporters covering his sport would serve him well. Our desire is not to trawl through his private life, it is primarily to analyse his golf and his impact on the game.
Sir Nick Faldo noted on Friday: "Tiger is a sensitive man; he is sensitive to mere comment let alone criticism." In other words, he needs to acquire a thicker skin and be more respectful to others in and around the game.
If, when he returns, Woods provides more of the same contemptuous and non-committal guff that has been his trademark, then he will leave a vacuum. It will be filled with material over which he'll have little positive influence.
In this regard, he could learn plenty from Poulter, an engaging man who is always ready to answer questions, respect fans and promote himself in the best possible light.
This week, he happily told us of his fears about being relocated to a room ending in an unlucky "13" on the evening of quarter/semi-final day, of his two new cars and eloquently explained why Sergio Garcia needn't be upset with him over a free drop.
He has that "human appeal" that Woods has so often lacked, and it doesn't deflect from the fact that Poulter has turned himself into a very fine golfer as well.