LIV Golf players accuse media of ‘stirring up’ tension

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — LIV Golf players were hiding in the leaderboard after the first round of the British Open at St. Andrews on Thursday.

Dustin Johnson, Lee Westwood and Talor Gooch were 4 under, four shots behind point guard Cameron Young. Bryson DeChambeau was 3 under as was Ian Poulter.

Things went sour between Westwood and a reporter when Westwood blamed the media for “stirring up” tension between LIV Golf players and non-LIV players.

“I think the media is fueling it and doing everything they can to help it,” Westwood said. “I think the general public just wants to go out there and see great golf, no matter where it’s played or who’s playing it.”

When there was a reaction from a reporter about it, Westwood said, “We could sit here and chat all day, but…I’ve spoken to a lot of [non-LIV players] and there is no animosity between the players. Yet history has been written that there is. Yes, you are creating problems where there are none. You want to be like that, fine.

Lee Westwood has accused the media of “stirring up” tensions between LIV golfers and non-LIV golfers.
AFP via Getty Images

Tensions rose when a reporter suggested the R&A wouldn’t be happy to see a LIV Golf player win this week.

“Who told you that, [R&A CEO] Martin Slumbers?” Westwood said. “Did he tell you the R&A wouldn’t be happy?” He said that?

When the reporter said, “No,” Westwood said, “Well, you just made that up then, okay. So we don’t need to have this conversation, do we? I think he will be happy that whoever is the champion golfer of the year holds the trophy in the air on Sunday night because he played the best. And that’s what the R&A expects from this championship. They want the best player to win, no matter what circuit they play on. ”

Poulter, meanwhile, disputed reports that he had been heckled by spectators for his alliance with the Saudi-backed tour.

“I actually thought I had a great reception on the first tee, to be honest,” Poulter said. “All I heard was applause. I didn’t hear any heckling. In three weeks, I heard nothing. Not a single sound. You can write whatever you want about it. “Being heckled and booed. You’ve gone 18 holes. Did you hear a comment?”

Despite the rift between players who took Saudi money and players supporting the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, Poulter said his relationship with non-LIV players hasn’t changed.

Bryson De Chambeau
Bryson De Chambeau

“We might have a difference of opinion, but they’re my friends,” Poulter said. “We all have opinions, don’t we? We’re still friends no matter the landscape and wherever you golf.”

Asked about his reaction to the strong way Slumbers denounced players who went to play for LIV Golf, Poulter said: “I deliberately didn’t watch at all. I do not want to know. You can tell me [but] I will not listen. I am here to play golf. This could probably be my last open championship at St. Andrews, so I’m trying to enjoy it despite the questioning. I stay away.”

DeChambeau said he “respects everyone’s opinions,” but added, “It’s a major championship. I’m going in with a mindset that I’m focused on trying to win this golf tournament. So that was not the focus of my concerns. I focused on the competition doing my best here.

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson made up for lost time with Australian Lucas Herbert, with whom he was paired on Thursday. As the two stood on the 15th tee, Herbert warned Mickelson about being blown away when he asked for an autograph as a teenager at the 2011 Presidents Cup in Melbourne.

“I had a laugh with Phil today,” Herbert said. “I reminded him that I had hated him for 11 years because he hadn’t signed an autograph for me. He was very sorry and played along. It was pretty funny.”

Mickelson said, “Yeah, I gave him one today. He was 11 years late. We had a good laugh.”

Barclay Brown, an amateur from England, shot a 4-under 68 and was just four shots off the lead.

“I was incredibly nervous at the start,” he said. “Then once I got through the first two holes, yeah, it was nice to calm down a bit and hit some good shots and get going.”

One of the most intriguing pairings on Thursday was John Daly with DeChambeau.

“It was fun to see his power,” said Daly, who was one of the longest hitters in the game. “He strikes his iron 4,280, 290 [yards] on fees. It’s fun to watch. Great child. I love watching him play. It’s really cool.”

Michael C. Ford