The greatest warlords always maintained that a combatant should go for the opponent's jugular when they are at their most vulnerable and yesterday Ian Poulter did just that when pressing the spikes on his size 10s deep into the faltering American Ryder Cup cause. "If they don't want to treat it seriously, then we'll keep winning," said the Englishman. "And that would be very nice."
Poulter was, of course, referring to the comments of Hunter Mahan, which have caused such a stir in the build-up to the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, which got underway last night in Ohio.
The Californian, who was, supposedly, to be one of the new guard to reinvigorate the Starred and Striped challenge, declared that the US players were treated like "slaves" at an event where they effectively played for free and for that reason did not treat it as "seriously" as the Europeans. Before he set out in his first round, Poulter (pictured below) had a very simple, straightforward message for Mahan: "Don't bother playing then." Speaking on Sky Sports, he added: "If people like that don't want to take it seriously then that's up to them. But obviously he shouldn't play or shouldn't want to play. But I tell you what, there are a lot of other players out there who want his place."
Poulter's entire season has been built around making his second appearance in the Ryder Cup and, like the majority of the European team, he has been flabbergasted by the outburst of a young man who has yet to play in the biennial dust-up. For his part, Mahan was contrite about his remarks and confessed that he had sought out his captain, Paul Azinger, to apologise. "I had to explain to him what I was trying to say," the 26-year-old said. "He understood and I told him that making this team is very important to me. I do care about it and I do want to win and I want to bring the cup back to the States."
When asked if he thought this might affect his chances of gaining a wild card from Azinger, a leader who has gone out of his way to stress America's passion for a match they have won only once in the last six stagings, Mahan said: "I dunno. From when I talked to him, and as far as I know, it hasn't."
Mahan is clearly living in a land where cloud cuckoos fill the skies if he thinks he will get to Kentucky on anything other than an automatic ticket. During his tirade, the Californian even warned that players such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson might refuse to participate in future Ryder Cups and that inevitably infuriated longstanding team members, who were aghast that a rookie could be so arrogant as to speak up on their behalf. However, they are probably not quite as furious as the organisers, the PGA of America.
Mahan all but accused that proud body of caring solely about the mass of money and of not giving a damn about the result. If Azinger is to give him the nod, it will have to be against the wishes of some senior players in his side as well as against those of his appointees. So Mahan will just have to leapfrog into the top eight of the standings by Sunday week's deadline.
He is currently 11th in the rankings and needs good finishes in Akron and in next week's USPGA in Detroit. Last night's 71 left him five behind the leader, Retief Goosen. Poulter has four to make up following his level-par 70, which in turn is one behind Padraig Harrington, the man who denied him the Open Championship two weeks ago.Reuse content