Ian Poulter shot a four-under-par 66 on Thursday at the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational, but that performance was overshadowed by a confrontation with a fan on the final hole at TPC Southwind.
“It is a shame, I hope we can control it more going forward and it gets stamped out, because it is not needed in the game of golf,” Poulter said of the incident.
The problem began when Poutler, just off the 18th fairway, struck his approach shot. As the ball was in the air, according to Poulter, a fan yelled, “Get in the bunker!” Poulter, 43, immediately shot back, “Really, you deserve to be here, do you?” Poulter then motioned to security to remove the fan from the course.
“It is disappointing, to be honest. I get it, I’m an Englishman, I play on the Ryder Cup team, I’m sure I’ve upset a few of these guys from time to time when they’re watching TV,” Poulter told Sky Sports after his round. “But when we’re playing a world-class event like we do week in, week out, and you’ve got guys like that, in a small group and want to feel big in front of their friends and they scream silly things out, it is disappointing.
“I hate to do that [kick someone out], but we shouldn’t be getting abused in this day and age. Unfortunately it happens quite often. Most of the time we just ignore it and let it go.”
This is far from Poulter’s first run-in with the gallery. In 2016, he took notice of a man named JJ Downum who bragged about “psyching out” Poulter at the Valspar Championship. Poulter informed Downum’s employer of the behaviour, leading to Downum’s dismissal. Poulter also faced hostile crowds during the 2018 US Open with fans cheering when his approach shots landed in bunkers or when he missed putts. On that infamous Saturday at Shinnecock Hills, there was actually a “USA!” chant after a bogey at the par-5 16th. Poulter had the final word, criticising the gallery’s etiquette and pondering the possible scene at the 2024 Ryder Cup, which will be down the road at Bethpage Black.
“Verbally abused on every hole does get a little old,” he said after the third round. “That’s not really golf, either.”
In Memphis, Poulter was unfazed by the jeer, getting up and down just off the green for par.
“It is a real shame, we’re here at a WGC tournament, it is a great field, has a great purse and has got everything we want to come here and compete [for], apart from one idiot who decides to be silly,” Poulter said.