“Do you think Old Tom Morris is turning in his grave?” Even some of the reporters crammed into the mixed zone giggle at this question. We’ve officially reached peak LIV Golf.
The Englishman, Majesticks logo adorning the left sleeve of his mid-layer, bats back the answer in a 12-minute presser that is, of course, dominated by the Saudi Arabian breakaway sect.
It’s all anyone talks about these days. Except, it seems, on the Old Course itself. The guy who almost punctures my ear drum yelling “Light the candle!” as Poulter’s tee shot soared over the railway sheds on 17 gets plenty of grief.
Disturbingly at a golf tournament, I hear far more than I either want – or need – about the various merits of the Conservative Party leadership contenders.
But for Poulter? Warmth, plenty of applause, and cheers as his tap in birdie at the last sets the seal on a 3-under 69. He’s in the hunt.
About four and a half hours earlier, as some of us were barely rising from our slumbers, there had been a kerfuffle on the 1st tee.
What was that sound as Poulter lined up in front of the clubhouse in front of the R&A Clubhouse shortly after 7am?
Were they – shock, horror – boos? The best description anyone seemed to come up with to describe the noise was a “smattering”.
Then his subsequent snap hook pulled up just in time on the widest fairway in world golf.
Had these dastardly naysayers really got under the Postman’s skin?
“I actually thought I had a great reception on the 1st tee, to be honest,” he said. “All I heard was clapping. Oh my gosh, I have heard not one heckle. In three weeks, I’ve heard nothing.
“You lot can write whatever you like about being heckled and booing. I thought there was a couple of thousand on the tee. So they obviously drowned out the one.”
If you’re going to say Poulter’s just becoming good at blocking out the negatives then there might be something in that.
“Purposely haven’t looked at all,” he explained. “So I don’t want to know. You can tell me. I’m not going to listen. 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 out of the way. I’m not reading social media. I just want to play golf, right? I can only do my job.
“If I listen to a lot of nonsense, then I’m going to get distracted. That’s never going to be good for me.”
Let’s talk about the golf. Finally. There was plenty to like. Despite almost sticking his opening tee shot into the spectators on Links Road, he dug out a par and turned in three under after a 150-foot eagle at the 9th that will go down as one of the longest putts ever seen on TV.
“As flat as that green is and from 150 feet, I kind of hit it two cups out to the right. If you can ever figure a line of two cups to the right, I knew it might wander a hair right to left through the middle of the putt.”
Equally as heartening was the way he fashioned a score through a semi-difficult stretch from 13 – carefully navigating the Old Lady’s curves and contours when his iron game maybe wasn’t quite as sharp.
Could the stars be aligned, Poulter is asked? Could that 150-foot putt help him on his way to a maiden major in the 150th Open?
Poulter looks at the questioner, the same so concerned about Old Tom in his cathedral resting place, and fixes the briefest of stares.
“Hopefully I’m not turning in my grave on Sunday.”
The R&A has announced details of how you can get tickets for the historic 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in 2023. Click here to find out more.
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