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Ian Poulter: The Golfer Fans Love to Hate

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | In the arena of professional golf, not many players have interacted with the general public much like Ian Poulter. In doing so, Poulter has earned himself a mixed bag in terms of fanfare, which could not be more polarized among golf fans across the globe.

He's loud. He's boisterous. He can even be downright obnoxious. Often times, Poulter's mouth -- and Twitter account -- gets him into situations he would much rather avoid. He enjoys his clothing flashy and his sports cars fast. Above all else, however, Ian Poulter is one of the best golfers in the world, especially in match-play format.

His history and performance at past Ryder Cup matches -- including last year's historic come-from-behind victory over the United States at Medinah Country Club as part of Team Europe -- is legendary. Poulter has contributed to three victories for the Europeans since 2004, building an incredible record of 12 wins to only three losses over that span. He remains undefeated in singles matches. For all intents and purposes, Poulter is one of the greatest Ryder Cup competitors of all time.

Perhaps that is what makes his early defeat at this week's World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria so surprising. Poulter was handedly defeated by Thongchai Jaidee at Thracian Cliffs on Thursday 3 and 2. There would be no bug-eyed jubilation after sinking a critical putt, nor shouts of "Come on!" to which we have grown accustomed from the spikey-haired match-play powerhouse.

Following his round May 16, Poulter seemed both frustrated and disappointed in his performance in a format that remains his specialty. A handful of miscues cost him dearly throughout the afternoon.

"I got off to a good start with birdies on the first three holes and it was then a combination of a couple of mistakes and handing Thongchai too many holes," Poulter said. Thanks to the round-robin format of the tournament, Poulter is now slated to face unseeded Thomas Aitken with the hope of staying alive in the competition.

American golf fans haven't exactly been the most supportive of the Englishman over the years. Then again, Poulter hasn't exactly been the most cordial golfer in the world, either.

Who could forget the colorful incident during the 2010 Phoenix Open -- specifically on the famous hole No. 16 at TPC Scottsdale -- when Poulter "saluted" the gallery with a middle digit after missing a 5-foot putt? Of course, there was also the time when Poulter took to Twitter to express his displeasure with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club's proposed changes to the Old Course at St. Andrews.

"I know," Poulter tweeted. "Let's draw a mustache on the Mona Lisa."

He has also had more than his fair share of run-ins with fellow competitors on the social media outlet, including what Poulter later referred to as "playful banter" with Rory McIlroy following the first round of the 2011 Masters.

Regardless of his off-course antics and tribulations, Poulter's biggest setback to date has been his inability to win "the big one." Still without a major championship on his resume after nearly two decades as a professional, Poulter has struggled mightily as a singles player. The majority of his 16 professional wins have come on the European Tour in events featuring weaker fields. It wasn't until his victory at the 2010 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship that Poulter triumphed over the best of his contemporaries for what, at the time, was his greatest singles achievement.

Love him or hate him, Ian Poulter remains a lightening rod of energy while demanding attention in any tournament he competes. Despite what this week's performance in Bulgaria may suggest, Poulter remains the most deadly match-play competitor the sport has seen in years.

Adam Fonseca has been a writer and blogger since 2005. His work has appeared on numerous digital outlets including the Back9Network and SB Nation. He currently lives in Chicago with his wife. Adam can be reached on Twitter @chicagoduffer.com.

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