Bringing Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter together has always felt like an act of nostalgia, a desperate attempt by Padraig Harrington to squeeze more magic out of the pair that blew up the Medinah miracle. And yet, it was an experience that firmly belonged to the past, as the two delivered a dismal performance, mixing jagged playing with rhythmic body language, en route to a 5 & 3 beating of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Sc Chaudele.
Whether McIlroy isn’t a morning person is a matter of record. This is the person presented with a comedic oversized watch by his teammates nine years ago after sleeping during his Sunday morning call. But even by his standards, his early mistakes alongside Poulter here at Whistling Straits were unforgivable.
As soon as the fairway opened, he played his chip horribly wrong, leaving Poulter 30 feet from the pin as the Americans caught the first of five consecutive holes. UKTN Radio Five Live co-commentator Trish Johnson couldn’t suppress the voice of horror in her head. “It was fucking shit,” she blurted out, seemingly without realizing she was live.
It was far from the only blunder for McIlroy, who couldn’t find precision with his irons or touch with his putting as the European foursomes’ last game plummeted. They lost their fifth straight hole when Cantlay drained a 30-footer and could easily have fallen from six after ScHotele drained his 12-foot putt for a birdie. The more they stumbled, the more the vast galleries barred Poulter under the pristine Wisconsin sun.
Disturbingly, this once deadly duo seemed to deny their own shortcomings. According to Poulter, “we played pretty well”, while McIlroy said: “I don’t know if anyone could have beaten Alex and Patrick today.” A duo that didn’t play the top nine of 39 could have been a start.