THERE may not be a personal wager riding on it this time, but England’s Ian Poulter is still desperate to beat Henrik Stenson to the DP World Championship – the finale of golf’s European Tour – starting today.
Poulter finished second to Sweden’s Stenson 12 months ago and, as a result of their bet, had to fork out $100 and spend a galling evening serving drinks to his Ryder Cup team-mate.
This year he intends to take revenge by winning the £766,000 first prize, thereby overtaking second-placed Stenson in the Race to Dubai rankings and pocketing a £510,000 bonus.
“There’s still a big bonus for No2 and that would upset the No2 right now,” joked Poulter. “I’m still chasing Mr Stenson down like I was chasing him last year. We haven’t had a side wager because there’s not quite the same takedown, but to win this week would move me nicely up.”
Poulter – seeking his first individual title since November 2012 – has sounded out two-time Major winner Greg Norman for putting advice after blowing a six-shot halfway lead at last week’s Turkish Airlines Open to finish second, one place ahead of Stenson.
“I know Greg really well and it was really nice of him to reach out,” he said. “I will take on board what he said and I will be on the putting green soon to hit some putts, and see if what he said is right or wrong.”
Defending champion Stenson, whose 2013 triumph capped a landmark year in which he won both the Race to Dubai and the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup, is winless in 2014 despite consistently high finishes.
Having seen Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy already claim his European No1 crown, Stenson is hoping a return to the scene of perhaps his finest performance will inspire an overdue victory.
“Last year was very special and I know it can’t be as special this year because Rory has already won the overall race,” said Stenson. “But I can make it a very special week by playing well here.
“I haven’t defended a title yet, so I couldn’t think of a much better place to do it to be fair than here this week.”