Poulter refutes McIlroy's 'betrayal' comments and retains Ryder Cup hope

By Sports Desk October 26, 2022

Ian Poutler has refuted Rory McIlroy's claim that players joining the LIV Golf Invitational Series engaged in a "betrayal" of their former Ryder Cup team-mates.

Five players who featured in Europe's comprehensive defeat at last year's Ryder Cup have since joined the controversial breakaway circuit, including Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.

Meanwhile, Henrik Stenson was stripped of Team Europe's captaincy for next year's competition – set to take place at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome – following his own decision to join LIV Golf.

It remains uncertain whether players from the LIV circuit will be able to feature at the 2023 Ryder Cup, and McIlroy has repeatedly insisted they should not. 

Speaking to the Guardian on Tuesday, McIlroy went a step further, saying: "I think it is the first time in my life that I have felt betrayal, in a way. It's an unfamiliar feeling to me. You build bonds with these people through Ryder Cups and other things."

Poulter responded to that statement at a press conference ahead of LIV's next event in Miami, saying: "A betrayal? I mean, we can still qualify for the team, as far as I'm aware, unless we've been told we can't qualify.

"I'm still ready to play as much as I possibly can and try and make that team.

"My commitment to the Ryder Cup, I think goes before me. I don't think that should ever come into question. 

"I've always wanted to play Ryder Cups and play with as much passion as anyone else that I've ever seen play a Ryder Cup, I don't know where those comments really come from, to be honest."

Phil Mickelson – one of the first household names to join LIV Golf – spoke alongside Poulter on Wednesday but refused to engage with McIlroy's claim the circuit's feud with the PGA Tour was "out of control". 

"I think a lot of Rory, I really have the utmost respect for him, [for] what he's done in the game and how he's played this year," Mickelson said. 

"I have a tonne of respect for him. As players, we have three months off after this event to talk about things like that and so forth."

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    Junior golfers Mattea Issa and Ryan Lue emerged as the top performers at the Jamaica Golf Association’s national senior trials. The event, which concluded on Sunday at the prestigious Half Moon Golf Course in Montego Bay, saw both youngsters outplay their senior counterparts to claim the top spots on the leaderboard.

    Issa, a rising star in Jamaican golf, led the women's division from start to finish across the three-day event. She finished with a total score of 10 over par 226, with daily scores of 76, 73, and 77. This secured her a four-stroke victory over Emily Mayne, the 2022 winner and reigning national female golf champion. Mayne concluded the trials with scores of 81, 76, and 73, totaling 14 over par 230.

    Issa's triumph was particularly commendable given the challenges she faced, including adverse weather conditions and a personal mishap. Reflecting on her performance, Issa said, “The conditions on the weekend were very tough. There was a lot of wind and rain and there was even a lightning delay on the second day.

    “On the third day, while warming up, I had a little incident where I was hit in the face with one of my training aids and had to visit the emergency room before my tee time. Despite these challenges, I’m proud of my performance and happy to win back-to-back titles in 2023 and 2024.”

    In the men's division, Lue finished with a total score of six over par 222 after rounds of 79, 75, and an exceptional four under par 68 on the final day. This final round score, possibly his best on local soil, secured him a four-stroke victory over Jack Stein, who posted a total of 226 after a one under par 71 in the last round.

    Lue expressed his satisfaction with his performance, stating, “I feel like the trials went well. I am very happy with my performance, especially with my final round score. Winning the trials and the opportunity to represent Jamaica this summer in the Dominican Republic is very exciting.”

    Several other golfers also made notable contributions, particularly on the final day. Rocco Lopez, who led on day one, finished joint third with Zandre Roye, both scoring 227.

     Roye, the current national golf champion, recovered from a challenging second round to post a one under par 71 on the final day. William Knibbs, the 2023 national champion, and Oshae Haye, the 2022 champion, also showed strong performances, finishing fifth and joint sixth, respectively.

    Both Issa and Lue are now set to represent Jamaica at the Caribbean Junior Amateur Golf Championship, scheduled to be held in Jamaica in early July. They will also participate in the Caribbean Amateur Golf Championship later in July in the Dominican Republic, where their recent performances will have set high expectations.

  • USGA chief hopes to open pathway for breakaway LIV golfers at U.S. Open USGA chief hopes to open pathway for breakaway LIV golfers at U.S. Open

    World golf remains split on the divide between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, yet United States Golf Association chief executive Mike Whan hopes to create a pathway for the breakaway players at the U.S. Open.

    No permanent deal appears on the cards in the near future as the PGA and Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), which funds the LIV circuit, held further talks last week.

    Tiger Woods described the meeting as "productive" but just 12 LIV players will be in action when the U.S. Open starts on Thursday at Pinehurst.

    Jon Rahm would have been the 13th if not for his withdrawal due to a troublesome foot injury as LIV representation remains sparse at golf's major events.

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    "I think we are serious about that," USGA chief Whan said when asked about creating a link between LIV and the U.S. Open. 

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    "I also think, if I'm being perfectly honest with you, we've always felt like for the last year and a half that we're always three months away from kind of understanding what the new structure is going to look like.

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    Past U.S. Open champions Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Martin Kaymer are among the LIV golfers to feature at this week's major.

    LIV rookies Dean Burmester, David Puig and Eugenio Chacarra all made the field through final qualifying, while veteran Sergio Garcia was added to the list of players on Monday.

  • U.S. Open: Scheffler facing Schauffele shoot-out at Pinehurst? U.S. Open: Scheffler facing Schauffele shoot-out at Pinehurst?

    The third major of the year is upon us, and one man in particular will be hoping it goes more smoothly than the second.

    World number one Scottie Scheffler saw his bid for a first PGA Championship crown unravel at Valhalla Golf Course, with Xander Schauffele ultimately edging out Bryson DeChambeau and Viktor Hovland for his first major crown.

    Many expect the duo – currently the top two in golf's world rankings – to battle it out for glory on Course No. 2 at Pinehurst Resort this week, as the U.S. Open heads back to North Carolina. 

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    Ahead of the 124th edition of the tournament, which features the largest purse of any major at $20million, we run through the likely contenders, the storylines to keep an eye on and what to expect from the course.

    The course

    Pinehurst No. 2 is hosting the U.S. Open for the fourth time, having previously been used for the 1999, 2005 and 2014 editions. 

    Since it first welcomed the event, the course has been home to the tournament more times than any other venue.

    The course, which was renovated in 2011, is known for rewarding putting accuracy over driving excellence, and it has not always favoured home players in the past.

    While Pinehurst No. 2's first staging of the U.S. Open produced a United States-born victor in Payne Stewart, New Zealand's Michael Campbell triumphed in 2005 and Germany's Martin Kaymer won by eight strokes in 2014. 

    That was the second-largest margin of victory recorded at the U.S. Open since the World War II after Tiger Woods triumphed by 15 shots at Pebble Beach in 2000.

    Expect four gruelling days. Indeed, across the previous four editions of the U.S. Open to be played at Pinehurst No. 2, only Kaymer in 2014 (-9) finished with a score better than one under par for the week.

    The contenders 

    Fresh off the back of his first major success, Schauffele will expect to be in the running again. He is one of four players to finish inside the top 10 at both of this year's majors to date, having ranked eighth at the Masters. The others to do so are Scheffler, DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa.

    Five players have previous won both the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open in the same year – Gene Sarazen (1922), Ben Hogan (1948), Jack Nicklaus (1980), Woods (2000) and Brooks Koepka (2018).

    The clear favourite once again, though, is Scheffler. 

    He was arrested and charged with second-degree assault of a police officer, third-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving and disregarding traffic signals from an officer after attempting to pass an incident outside Valhalla ahead of his second round last month.

    He finished the tournament in a share of eighth – an admirable effort, given the disruption – and saw his charges dismissed just 12 days after his arrest.

    The incident has not done much to affect his form. Scheffler claimed his fifth title of the year at the PGA Tour's Memorial Tournament last week, becoming just the second player – alongside Woods – to win the Players Championship, Masters and Memorial in the same year.

    He has won five of his eight tournaments on the PGA Tour since March, finishing T2 twice and T8 once in the other three. 

    Reflecting on the way he responded to his arrest at Valhalla, Scheffler said: "I call it compartmentalising parts of my life.

    "So I have my off-course life and then I have my on-course life, when I'm out here practicing and playing tournaments. I don't show up to these tournaments just to play. I'm here to do my best and compete."

    Besides Scheffler and Schauffele, McIlroy will be hoping to go one better after finishing one stroke behind champion Wyndham Clark at last year's U.S. Open.

    Having fallen short at the year's first two majors, the Northern Irishman hopes the firm conditions expected in North Carolina will play into his hands. 

    "After the Open Championship in 2019 I'd had a disappointing run in the majors, and I tried to change my mindset," he told The Telegraph.

    "Since then I've come to love it when it is fast and firm. If you look at my results in the U.S. Open and some of the toughest tests from 2019 until now, I would say the U.S. Open has arguably been my best major in the last few years."

    Morikawa should also be there or thereabouts, having been narrowly edged out by Scheffler on his most recent outing at the Memorial.

    Alongside Ludvig Aberg, he has the most top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this year without a victory (six). Might his luck turn this week?

    The legends

    The U.S. Open will also feature a couple of players attempting to recapture past glories, with Woods the one most fans are looking forward to seeing.

    He missed the cut at the PGA Championship after carding scores of 72 and 77, subsequently admitting improvements are needed in all areas if he is to fare better on his first U.S. Open appearance since 2020.

    "I need to clean up my rounds," Woods said after the PGA Championship. "Physically, yes, I am better than I was a month ago.

    "I still have more ways to go, lots of improvement to do physically, and hopefully my team and I can get that done pre-Pinehurst."

    Only four players – Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones, Hogan and Nicklaus (four apiece) – have bettered Woods' three U.S. Open triumphs, and his most recent victory at the event was the last to be decided by a playoff, seeing off Rocco Mediate in 2008.

    While Woods has enjoyed plenty of success at the U.S. Open, the same cannot be said for Phil Mickelson.

    It is the only major he has not won in his 32 attempts, 30 as a professional and two as an amateur, and his six second-place finishes at the U.S. Open are more than any other player.

    The first of those came 25 years ago, at Pinehurst No. 2.

    The history 

    For all the big names on show, the U.S. Open does have a tendency to throw up surprise victors.

    Indeed, since Woods triumphed at Torrey Pines in 2018, 12 of the next 15 U.S. Opens have produced a first-time major champion. That includes the last five editions, with Gary Woodland, DeChambeau, Jon Rahm and Matt Fitzpatrick triumphing before Clark.

    Clark could become just the fourth player since World War II to retain the U.S. Open title, after Hogan (1950 and 1951), Curtis Strange (1988 and 1989) and Koepka (2017 and 2018). 

    Last year's victory at Los Angeles Country Club remains his only top-30 finish at a major – he missed the cut at this year's Masters and PGA Championship.

    The U.S. Open was formerly known as a real test of endurance, but things have changed somewhat in recent years.

    From 2005 to 2013, six of nine editions produced an even/over-par winning score, but nine of the last 10 have been won with an under-par score, the exception being Koepka's 2018 victory at Shinnecock Hills (+1).

    What kind of score will be required this time out? If Scheffler maintains his outstanding form, he will take some beating. 

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