If Ian Poulter has concerns about incurring the wrath of fellow players and the Scottish golf public in the coming days, he hides them extremely well. The Englishman, who was originally blocked from participating in the Scottish Open because of involvement in the breakaway LIV Series, strode into the Renaissance Club in North Berwick on Wednesday having been cleared to play.
Poulter insisted golf’s civil war is not apparent at the coalface. “I feel comfortable in the position that I have always committed to the European Tour,” he said. “This has always been my home tour for 24 years. Why should that change?
“I had a reception early this week [at the JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor] as never before: 40,000 fans at the event and they were incredible. Not one bit of abuse, zero. Yes, social media is bad because that’s their forum to hide. We know that happens. It empowers people who can stay behind a screen. But to my face? Nothing.”
But what of colleagues? Billy Horschel used pre-tournament media duties here to lambast “hypocrites” on the LIV circuit. Poulter chose not to address Horschel’s sentiment directly but instead pointed towards fellow Europeans Rory McIlroy and Thomas Bjørn, who sit firmly in the anti-LIV camp.
“I haven’t felt any issues at all.” Poulter said. “It’s business, right? So business and personal are two completely different things. I am going to have a different opinion than some. Even if Thomas’s opinion is different to mine, I’m not going to fall out with him about it. I have known Thomas for 25 years. He is on the [European Tour] board and has the right to his opinion, I have a right to mine.
“There’s going to be a few people that are extremely strong-minded about it and there are others who are my friends; we will agree to disagree but remain friends. I had a good catch up with Rory and Thomas last week. It’s only ‘uncomfortable’ because that’s what is being written.”
Poulter clearly feels perturbed by the European Tour’s approach towards those who have accepted LIV’s lucrative overtures. His potential and previously inevitable Ryder Cup captaincy seems under threat and the 46-year-old admits his golf has suffered as the saga has rumbled on. “It is exhausting,” he said.
“For you guys [in the media], for us. The bigger picture of golf is there is a level of investment coming in which is of vast amounts of money. For a period of time, the European Tour were extremely interested in doing something with that and now they are not. It was OK to work in that little ecosystem for a while because they were negotiating and now they are not. Which is sad, because there is clearly space in the calendar with the space we have.
“It is not an easy process to go through. Social media and various people’s comments make it difficult. When you have been with a tour for 24 years and never given your card up, played 389 events and been as committed to this tour as anyone – quite a few have given their card up through the years. You don’t want to feel like you have been completely pushed out.”
Poulter and his fellow LIV rebels remain free to play in European Tour events until the arbitration process is either overturned or upheld. That is likely to take months to crystallise. Poulter confirmed he plans to enter the Czech Masters in August and the PGA Championship at Wentworth the following month.