Tensions continued to rage among the Saudi series rebels last night as Ian Poulter erupted into anger again after being asked about St Andrews boos.
As Dustin Johnson emerged as the only likely LIV player in the hunt to lift the Claret Jug, grins turned to grimaces for Poulter as he was quizzed about jeers.
A journalist had asked Poulter after his round of 70 whether he had noticed getting “a lot” of support after boos on the opening day.
Poulter snapped back: “Are we still talking about it?”
When the reporter confirmed he had not heard any jeers on Friday, the Englishman added: “No, okay. So it’s amazing how we still talk about one person that’s 100 yards down the 1st, where there’s conveniently a microphone positioned way down halfway down the stand and some young guy says boo, and it comes over on the TV. And you all assume I’m being booed on the course.”
Poulter had been the first of the 24 players who signed up to the controversial LIV series to tee off on Thursday and boos from a handful of spectators were clearly audible.
Poulter added: “If you guys continue to write that there are people and there’s negative comments and there’s boos, then unfortunately that’s not a true reflection of exactly what happened.”
Having holed an incredible eagle putt from around 150 feet across the ninth green on Thursday, the 46-year-old had been in largely good spirits at the Old Course. Again before teeing off, he shared a joke with spectators watching him on the practice putting green, after he missed three long-range efforts.
At his techy press conference, Poulter claimed “we’re getting quite a lot of support out there on the golf course.
“It would be a fair reflection of actually what’s happening, rather than this continual press of let’s lead down the path of players being booed who have joined the LIV tour,” he added. “Let’s just say that, right? Fair, respectful, honest journalism would be great because it would be the truth.”
The Saudi rebel series row has been an unwelcome sideshow, with R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers saying banning LIV Golf rebels from next year’s Open was “not on the agenda”, but that entry criteria could be changed.
Poulter said his focus was to enjoy a final farewell to playing at this level at the Home of Golf. “This is my fifth Open at St Andrews,” he said. “It will be my last Open at St Andrews. I’ve got my whole family here watching. So I’m here to enjoy myself.
“The reception I’ve had has been remarkable, to be honest. I’ve enjoyed every part of it. It’s been great not to read any rubbish in the press this week, which has been unusual for me to not read it.”
Poulter is one of the highest profile defectors to the LIV Golf Series, which has split the sport in recent months. The Ryder Cup hero – previously beloved by Europe fans – received more than £20 million to join and, like the 19 other LIV golfers, has been hit with an indefinite ban by the PGA Tour.
Last week, he took the DP World Tour – formerly the European Tour – to court to win an injunction to escape a ban for the Scottish Open, a tournament in which he proceeded to miss the cut. It was quite the build-up to a staggering moment that the overwhelming majority in the game would never believe possible.
The boos at 7.08am on Thursday were clear on the TV coverage, but Poulter claimed he did not hear them.
He said again on Saturday that he had “deliberately not read” some of the apparent focus on boos he has faced. “I’ve had a frustrating week on the greens,” he added.
“For me making three-putt bogeys from long distances is annoying. As I walk off the golf course every single day, I’m really disappointed with the score I’m on, not taking the opportunities really on the 5s that I should have done as well this week.
“And I’m in the end going to walk away from this week unfortunately disappointed with the end result, but nevertheless I’ll enjoy tomorrow. My kids will be here to watch. And it will be wonderful.”