Wearing a white sweater and visor with the logos of seven different sponsors visible, Ian Poulter didn’t just take questions from reporters after his round at the British Open, he leaned heavily on them. Poulter, always combative, had just walked off the course after completing a round of -3, his first in the Open Championship since making the jump to the breakaway LIV Golf Tour. The round included a spectacular 160-foot eagle putt for the Ryder Cup legend.
Poulter is not the only LIV player at the Open, but on Thursday he was the most outspoken, dismissing the idea that there was any criticism of him from the gallery. Excerpt from media feedback:
Q. Of course there are a few boos when you’re on your first one.
POULTER: I didn’t hear anything.
Q. So it didn’t affect you? People who put two and two together –
POULTER: I actually thought I had a great reception in the first game, to be honest. All I heard was clapping.
Q: A little shout out as you walked. Did you hear that?
POULTER: Oh my God, I didn’t hear a single roar. I heard nothing for three weeks. what did you hear
If Poulter hasn’t heard any criticism of his jump at LIV, he’s holed up in a soundproof bunker. Fellow players, golf officials, media and fans alike have all come down hard on players who have joined the lucrative LIV Golf chain with small, non-stop courses.
Both Tiger Woods and the R&A issued strong criticism of the LIV earlier in the week, with Woods questioning how players could perform at a high level without the stimulus of the cut and R&A chairman Martin Slumbers dismissing the LIV format. Asked about the criticism, Poulter didn’t mince words.
“I have deliberately not watched at all. So I don’t want to know. You can tell me, I won’t listen,” he said. “I’m here to play golf. This could possibly be my last Open at St Andrews. So I’m trying to enjoy it despite the questioning. I stand aside. I don’t read social media. I just want to play golf, right? I can only do my job. If I listen to a lot of crap, then I’ll get distracted. That will never be good for me.”
Bryson DeChambeau also finished at -3, looking much stronger than in recent months. As Poulter argued with reporters, DeChambeau sidestepped them, sticking to his “respect” line. When asked again about LIV and his decision to leave the PGA Tour, DeChambeau stuck to the script:
“I respect everyone’s opinion,” he said. “Again, for me, it was the best decision for me at the time and it still is.”
Phil Mickelson’s catchphrase was “Couldn’t be happier,” which he repeated four times in his own post-round media discussion. Despite the fact that he was encouraged not to attend the Champions Dinner – and he didn’t – Mickelson insisted that yes, he’s fine with how things have gone for him so far.
“I think I couldn’t be more excited and ecstatic about where I’m at,” he said. “I love events. I have golf in my life and competitive golf in my life on a scale that is fun, exciting, different and allows me to play and compete, but still do the things out there that I want to do. I have a nice trip coming up after this and things I haven’t been able to do in the past. So, no, I couldn’t be happier.”
Mickelson, wearing a casual black tee and tap, finished at par, leaving him in reasonable position to make the cut on Friday.
LIV’s source of funding — Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund — has drawn criticism, as has the 54-hole format of the breakaway guaranteed-money, non-stakes tour. This Open may be the last major where LIV players can qualify as easily as players on the PGA Tour and other tours; with no change to the Official World Golf Ranking, LIV players without automatic qualification will struggle to make their way into future fields.
Contact Jay Busbee at [email protected] or on Twitter at @jaybusbee.