IT was nice of Ian Poulter to show an interest in my industry during The Open Championship.
You’ll probably know Poulter as the worst-dressed golfer never to win a Major – and perhaps now for stuffing wads of Saudi cash into his flamboyant trousers by joining the rebel LIV Golf Tour.
Ian Poulter lines up putt on the final day of The Open at St Andrews
After becoming one of the Sheikh’s snakes, the Englishman received a few boos when he teed off at St Andrews – and journalists reported as much.
Objecting to this, Poulter has since demanded ‘fair, respectful and honest journalism’.
His Saudi paymasters also demand ‘respectful’ journalism. And they’ve taken to murdering and dismembering journalists who don’t respect their brutal regime.
So maybe ask the guys who sign your cheques whether that’s ‘fair’, eh ‘Poults’?
The Saudis, never averse to an all-out attack (just ask Yemen), have launched an offensive on the golfing establishment.
These people are serious, they are professional, they are hell-bent on sportwashing a regime which widely abuses human rights – and they are absolutely loaded.
Do not assume they will be satisfied with splitting golf in two.
With hundreds of millions being poured into Newcastle United from the Saudi Public Investment Fund which bankrolls LIV, they are likely to buy the Premier League title before long.
The Saudis are going about it impressively, hiring a fine manager in Eddie Howe and an excellent sporting director in Dan Ashworth, both of whom have been persuaded to leave their consciences at the door.
Emboldened by their ability to wreak havoc in a major world sport such as golf, the Saudis are now expected to target others – with tennis ripe for a future LIV-style rebel breakaway.
On Sunday, as the 150th Open reached its climax at the Home of Golf, the Saudis landed two significant strikes.
First, when champion Cameron Smith refused to deny that he intends to join the rebels.
Again, the Aussie mullet man suggested that it was wrong for a journalist to ask him this question.
According to Smith, his ‘team’ make those decisions for him and he just goes along with it. Which sounds convenient.
Poulter walks past a crowd on the first fairway after being booed before his opening tee shot
Still, perhaps the swordsman conducting public executions in Riyadh’s ‘Chop Chop Square’ could do something about Smith’s hairdo.
Smith, now second in the world rankings, would become the first top-ten player to defect.
But more significantly, news also broke on Sunday that European Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson was to abandon his post and join the Saudis.
When the skipper joins the mutiny, you know the ship really is in trouble.
While those in control of golf’s status quo – the R&A, the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour – have gone at the Saudis with all guns blazing, most golf watchers probably haven’t cared too much where golfers get their money from.
Most of the Europeans who have joined the dark side are veterans looking for a last payday, such as Poulter, the increasingly-tetchy Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, who wishes us to play a sad song on a tiny violin because people are being mean to him.
But Stenson’s exit is a game-changer because the partisan nature of the Ryder Cup – next staged in Italy in the autumn of 2023 – stokes passions like no other event in the sport.
There is fury at the Swede. And there is now deep concern that LIV – fronted by the Saudis’ chief lackey Greg Norman – will recruit enough big names to significantly affect the credibility of golf’s biggest events.
Next year, it seems the Open champion may not defend the Claret Jug and the Ryder Cup will be blighted by the sacking of one of its team captains.
Rory McIlroy has been an outspoken critic of the LIV Golf Tour
The R&A were having a bullish week when chief executive Martin Slumbers banned Norman from 150th Open celebrations, then coated the money-obsessed rebels and threatened them with future changes in qualification criteria.
It also seemed The Open had dodged the nightmare of a Saudi-backed champion – only for leader Rory McIlroy – an outspoken LIV critic – to be pipped by Smith.
With America’s PGA Tour having indefinitely expelled its rebels – including Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau – the sport is now deep in civil war.
Tennis chiefs should be concerned, along with other major international sports.
Because however wealthy these sportsmen are – and even a middling golfer like Poulter has career earnings north of £30million – many will always want more.
Perhaps we can persuade them against taking Saudi cash by reminding them of the murderous and oppressive nature of that regime.
We might even discover a conscience or two.
And maybe we should urge more and more spectators to heckle the likes of Poulter.
But perhaps that wouldn’t be the sort of fair, respectful and honest journalism this moral crusader is so keen on.
YOU CAN’T KID US, LADS
GARETH BALE and Wayne Rooney, two of the biggest names in British football, have headed to Major League Soccer.
And they’ve both assured us that the standard of the sport in the United States is massively under-rated.
Silly old us for assuming Bale had opted for semi-retirement with Los Angeles FC and Rooney had taken an easy option by managing DC United.
Thanks for the correction, gents.
NEW SEASON… SAME OLD STORY
APPARENTLY Premier League managers are making players work harder than ever this pre-season – and especially the new ones.
Erik ten Hag has been punishing Manchester United’s players by making them perform press-ups when they concede goals in training in Australia.
And Antonio Conte, in his first pre-season at Spurs, has been forcing his men to vomit in Korea because, well, he’s some kind of bad-ass, isn’t he?
Somebody else will doubtless have banned ketchup again as well.
But wouldn’t it be refreshing if a new manager arrived and said: “You know what, my predecessor over-worked these boys, I’m going to go easier on them and see if that works.”
FAITH IN JESUS
GABRIEL JESUS is an intriguing signing for Arsenal and Mikel Arteta, who knows the Brazilian well from his Manchester City days, clearly regards him as an authentic centre-forward.
But if Jesus really is a proper No 9, then why didn’t Pep Guardiola play him there more regularly when City were without any other senior specialist striker?
Gabriel Jesus celebrates scoring for Arsenal against Everton in Baltimore
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON
JUST a reminder that is NOT acceptable for grown men to panic about their football team on the basis of pre-season friendly results.
Even if it’s a 4-0 defeat by Manchester United.
TIGER’S ABOVE THE FLAW
APART from being the most important golfer of all time, Tiger Woods also had plenty of trouble controlling his libido, and his cars.
But that didn’t stop Woods receiving an extraordinary ovation when he played his final Open round at St Andrews.
Because for all of the twaddle we hear about ‘role models’, very few people actually expect sportsmen to parent their children for them.
In fact, we often appreciate them even more when we realise they are flawed.
DON’T COMPARE DADS V LADS
CHRIS EUBANK’S fights against Nigel Benn used to stop the nation in the early 1990s because they were compelling characters with contrasting styles.
That does not mean Chris Eubank Junior against Conor Benn, son of Nigel, will be as absorbing when the pair meet in October.
Eubank Junior has little of his father’s eccentric charm, while Benn Junior is a welterweight who normally fights three weight classes lower than the son of his dad’s old rival.
People will pay to watch it, as they paid to watch Floyd Mayweather against MMA gobs***e Conor McGregor.
But these two sons would have been better off forging their own identities, rather than re-fighting the battles of their fathers.