Ian Poulter says he could decline to play in Ryder Cup if he qualifies

Englishman’s relationship with even complicated by his 2022 switch to LIV Golf

Ian Poulter has suggested he could decline to play for Europe in this year’s Ryder Cup even if he qualifies, in the latest indication of the deep tensions within golf.

Poulter’s relationship with the event has been complicated by his 2022 switch to LIV Golf and is one of 11 to have played under the LIV banner who will feature in this week’s Abu Dhabi Championship on the DP World, formerly European Tour. A sporting arbitration case in early February will determine whether LIV members can continue to play in this domain. With that pending, should Poulter win this weekend or next, at the Dubai Desert Classic, the man who has played seven times for Europe would again be part of the Ryder Cup discussion.

Poulter, though, inferred he could take matters into his own hands. “I would love to qualify,” said the 47-year-old. “Whether I play or not would be a different thing.”

Pressed on this extraordinary scenario, he said: “We’ll see. I certainly don’t expect to get one of the six [captain’s] picks. Not in any way shape or form. Which is also a shame. What does that tell you?

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“I don’t know where my head is with that. It [the Ryder Cup] is the only thing that has mattered to me for 20 years and when you feel like things change you might feel a little differently.”

Noise and criticism over the LIV scene has, he believes, affected his ability to interact with the media and public. “I’m not in the pro-am tomorrow,” he said. “I don’t know if they will put me on telly. But that doesn’t bother me any more. 2022 was full of big distractions and my full focus for 2023 is to have as little distraction as possible, play good golf and enjoy myself.

“It’s been a difficult 2022 with everything that is out there in the public domain. And as frustrating as that is for me – when I feel that some of it is really unjust – it has been easy to let things boil over inside. Because the whole story has not quite been told. Whether that is my fault, or of yours, or of theirs, it doesn’t matter. What matters to me more than anything else is that I’m 47 and I just want to play golf and enjoy myself.”

Poulter breached his own rule by taking issue with Ryder Cup Europe’s Twitter feed last Thursday. After a positive message was sent to Francesco Molinari, Poulter pointed out the earlier failure of the same outlet to wish Sergio García a happy birthday. Garcia, the Ryder Cup’s record all-time points scorer, is another LIV rebel. “We always do those petty things, don’t we?” said Poulter. “From time to time we fight petty with petty. These things happen. Through time I have said lots of silly things. But that was just highlighting pettiness with petty. Should I have said it? Yes and no. All I did was highlight a fact. There was no other reason.”

The mood of Poulter and Henrik Stenson, who was stripped of the Ryder Cup captaincy after joining LIV, was hardly improved by the delayed arrival of their equipment in the Middle East from Florida. “I’m going to play a couple of holes with a half-set,” Poulter said of Tuesday’s plan. “I’ll walk the course and chip and putt. I’ll do my prep today without my clubs. I played here last year. My clubs are currently six hours from landing.”