GOLF

Phil Mickelson, other LIV players take on St. Andrews

ADVERTISEMENT

Dressed in a white sweater and visor with seven different sponsor logos visible, Ian Poulter not only fielded questions from reporters after the British Open round, he leaned in heavily. Poulter, ever combative, had just come off the course after finishing a -3 inning, his first in an open championship since making the jump to the LIV golf circuit on a breakaway. The round included a spectacular 160-foot putt for the Ryder Cup legend.

Poulter isn’t the only LIV player at the Open, but on Thursday he was by far the most outspoken, pushing back against the idea that there was criticism of him from the gallery. An example of back and forth with the media:

ADVERTISEMENT

Q. Sure, there are a few boos when you’re on the first tee.

POULTER: I haven’t heard of it.

Q. So it didn’t affect you? People put two and two together —

POULTER: I actually thought I had a great reception on the first tee, to be honest. All I heard was applause.

Q. A bit of a ruckus as you moved around. Did you hear that?

POULTER: Oh, my God, I didn’t hear any ruckus. In three weeks, I haven’t heard anything. What did you hear?

If Poulter heard no criticism of his time at LIV, he locked himself in a soundproof bunker. Fellow players, golf officials, the media and fans have all heavily criticized players who have joined the lucrative, uncut, small-course LIV Golf Tour.

Tiger Woods and the R&A issued strong criticism of LIV earlier in the week, with Woods questioning how players could play at a high level without the inducement of the cut, and R&A chairman Martin Slumbers dismissing the format of LIV. Asked about the reviews, Poulter didn’t bite.

“I didn’t look at all on purpose. So I don’t want to know. You can tell me, I’m not going to listen,” he said. “I’m here to play golf. This could probably be my last Open Championship at St Andrews. So I’m trying to enjoy it despite the questioning. I’m staying away. I don’t read social media. I want to just playing golf, right? I can only do my job. If I listen to a lot of nonsense, I’ll get distracted. It’ll never be good for me.

Bryson DeChambeau also finished at -3, looking much stronger than he has in recent months. While Poulter practiced with the reporters, DeChambeau avoided them, sticking to his line of “respect”. Asked once again about LIV and her decision to leave the PGA Tour, DeChambeau stuck to the script:

“I respect everyone’s opinions,” he said. “Again, for me, it was the best decision for me at that time and it still is.”

Phil Mickelson’s line was “I couldn’t be happier”, which he repeated four times in his own post-round media chat. Despite being encouraged not to attend the Champions Dinner – and he didn’t – Mickelson insisted that, yes, he was fine with the way things turned out for him so far.

“I think I couldn’t be more excited and ecstatic with where I am,” he said. “I love events. I have golf in my life and competitive golf in my life on a fun, exciting, different scale and allows me to play and compete while doing the outside things that I want to do. I “I have a nice trip planned after this and things that I haven’t been able to do in the past. So, no, I couldn’t be happier.”

Mickelson, sporting a relaxed black t-shirt and USA razor skin, finished tied, leaving him in a reasonable position to make the cut on Friday.

LIV’s funding source – Saudi Arabia’s sovereign public investment fund – has drawn criticism, as has the breakaway tour’s guaranteed-money, no-cut 54-hole format. This Open could be the last major in which LIV players can qualify as easily as players on the PGA Tour and other tours; without changes to the Official World Golf Ranking, LIV players without automatic qualification will struggle to make their way into future realms.

Phil Mickelson opted for business casual in the first round of the British Open. (Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group via Getty Images)

_____

Contact Jay Busbee at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee.

ADVERTISEMENT