Tensions continued between the rebels of the Saudi series last night as Ian Poulter turned furious again after being asked about St Andrews.
As Dustin Johnson emerged as the only potential LIV player in the hunt to lift the claret jug, the grin turned to a grin for Poulter as he was questioned about the joke.
Poulter was asked by a reporter after his 70s if he had noticed receiving “a lot” of support after the opening day boo.
Poulter snapped back: “Are we still talking about it?”
When the reporter confirmed he had heard no joke yesterday, the Englishman said: “No, right. So it’s amazing how we still talk about a guy who’s already 100 yards down , where there’s a microphone conveniently placed halfway down the stand. And some guy says boo, and it’s on the TV. And you all assume I’m being driven off course.”
Poulter was the first of 24 players to have signed up for the controversial LIV series on Thursday and boos from a handful of spectators were clearly audible.
Poulter added: “If you guys keep writing that there are people and there are negative comments and glee, unfortunately that’s not a true reflection of what really happened.”
The 46-year-old was largely in good spirits at the Old Course, after hiding an incredible eagle putt from nearly 150 feet on the ninth green on Thursday. Before resuming, he shared a joke with the audience watching him practice putting the beat after missing three long-distance attempts.
In his awkward press conference, Poulter claimed “we’re getting a lot of support on the golf course.
“It would be a fair reflection of what is really happening, rather than this constant press leading the way of players who have joined the LIV tour,” he said. “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 unwanted side, with R&A chief executive Martin Slummers saying banning the LIV Golf rebels from next year’s Open was “not on the agenda”, but that entry criteria could be changed.
The nightmare scenario for the organizers is that a LIV player eventually picks up the claret jug. Johnson’s back-to-back birdies on second and third placed him within one of the leads, where Victor Hovland joined him after his birdies on third.
But Johnson handed the shot back soon after missing the fairway and coming short with his approach, leaving Howland in fourth place with a long putt to share the lead after a second consecutive birdie.
Poulter said his focus was on enjoying the final farewell to playing at this level at Home of Golf.
“This is my fifth Open in St Andrews,” he said. “This will be my last Open in St. Andrews. I’ve seen my whole family here. So I’m here to enjoy myself.
“The reception I’ve received is remarkable, to be honest. I’ve enjoyed every part of it. It’s been great not to read any nonsense in the press this week, which has been unusual for me not to read it.”
Poulter is one of the highest-profile defenders in the LIV Golf Series, which has divided the game in recent months. The Ryder Cup hero – previously beloved by fans across Europe – received more than £20 million to join and, like 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 avoid the ban of the Scottish Open, a tournament he missed the cut. It was quite the build-up to a startling moment that the overwhelming majority in the game would never believe possible.
The excitement was evident on Thursday at 7.08 a.m. TV coverage, but Poulter claimed he didn’t hear them.
He said again yesterday that he “deliberately didn’t read” some clear focus on the blessings he has encountered. “I’ve had a disappointing week on the greens,” he said. “It’s annoying for me to make three-putt bogeys from long distances. As I walk off the golf course every single day, I’m really disappointed with my scores, not really taking chances on the 5s that I should be Was done this week too.
“And I’m finally going to walk away this week, unfortunately disappointed with the end result, but still I’ll enjoy tomorrow. My kids will be here to watch. And it will be wonderful.”