Ian Poulter was greeted with a mixture of cheers and boos as he began his opening round at the BMW PGA Championship.
Poulter teed it up Thursday in the DP World Tour’s flagship event amid much controversy regarding his appearance as one of the 18 LIV players in the field.
In an interview after his opening 3-under 69, Poulter said that he felt welcome at Wentworth. Earlier this week, a reporter caught Poulter and Billy Horschel having an animated discussion on the practice putting green, but Poulter said Thursday he hasn’t had any awkward run-ins with players.
“It’s been absolutely fine,” he said. “Not really going to say an awful lot about it. My phone number hasn’t changed at all. I have spoken to a few of the boys. Doesn’t seem to be a problem from my time that I’ve been talking to them. We can always play this game of he said-she said, and petty comments. It’s just easier if I don’t say anything. It makes it easier on everyone, to be honest. So I’m not going to say anything.”
Poulter was a notable attendee at the players’ meeting earlier this week, where he reportedly read off his phone a list of questions for DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley. A day later, Pelley characterized the meeting as “very short,” and said that all of the players’ questions were answered. Rory McIlroy, Billy Horschel and Shane Lowry were among the notable players who have publicly expressed disappointment that the LIV players have been allowed to play this week.
“I’m not going to comment on people’s comments that have said stuff on social and in front of you guys, and I’m not going to play the clickbait game,” Poulter said. “I’m just not playing it. I’m here to win and that’s that.”
A reporter noticed that Poulter was wearing the logo of his LIV-branded team, the Majesticks, on his left shoulder – which would seem to defy DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley’s request that LIV players not wear the rival league’s apparel while on-site. Poulter, however, said, “I’ve had a lot of different branded shirts in the last number of weeks. This is a business that I actually own part of, so it has a right to be there.” Later, he added: “I can’t possibly go to the embroiderers and have another set made up for this week. I am here for three weeks. I’m traveling, so this was the set I brought.”
This week’s BMW PGA marks the first qualifying event for the 2023 European Ryder Cup team, of which Poulter maintains that he’d like to be part. He turns 47 next January, has dropped outside the top 100 in the world rankings and, with the revamped qualifying criteria, is almost certain to need a pick from captain Luke Donald.
LIV players have been granted a stay to compete in DP World Tour events – a court case is slated for February 2023 – but Poulter was vague on his upcoming schedule.
“I’m planning to try and win this golf tournament,” he said. “That’s my plan.”