Sports | July 14, 2022 11:46 am

British Open May Ban LIV Golfers as Defector Ian Poulter Booed at St. Andrews

The organizer hinted that one of the world's top tournaments could soon change its entry rules

Ian Poulter of England, who has joined the LIV Golf Series,tees off during day one of The 150th Open at St Andrews Old Course.
The boo birds were out for Ian Poulter of England.
Andrew Redington/Getty

Noticeably booed for his defection to the LIV Golf Series at the first tee as he began his first round at the Open Championship, Englishman Ian Poulter badly shanked his opening shot at the Old Course at St. Andrews. To his credit, Poulter managed to save par on the hole en route to a strong opening nine (he finished with a fairly nice three-under 69).

After his round, Poulter said he never heard the boos. “I actually thought I had a great reception on the first 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. What have you heard?”

Poulter can say what he wants, but it was a rough start for the 46-year-old. Luckily, or unluckily depending on how you look at it, it’s one he may not have to endure again as the organizers of the British Open are considering banning players who have defected from the PGA Tour to join Greg Norman and the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV series, possibly as soon as next year.

Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the Open-organizing R&A, condemned the LIV Golf Series as being “entirely driven by money” and said it was “not in the best long-term interests of the sport” at a press conference prior to the start of the Open Championship.

The R&A has the authority to write its own rules for players to qualify for the Open, which will be held at Royal Liverpool next year, and could rework the rulebook to make it difficult for LIV players who do not have major-championship wins to gain entry into the tournament, but stop short of a complete ban on all LIV golfers, according to The New York Times. Should the R&A tighten its guidelines, it’s possible that American organizers of majors like the Masters could follow suit.

“I never said the best golfers will not be able to play,” Slumbers said. “We will hold totally true to the Open being open to anybody. But we may well look at how you get into that.”

As of now, the top LIV golfer at the Open Championship is Lee Westwood, who has a four-under 68 through 18. Should he or another LIV-er win on Sunday, Slumbers said he would “welcome them onto the 18th green.”

“This is a golf tournament,” he said. “The Open is about having the best players in the world playing and I want to see who shoots the lowest score come Sunday night.” But he’d probably rather it be PGA Tour star Rory McIlroy (six-under 66 in the first round) than Westwood, Poulter or another member of Norman’s upstart series.