Add Ian Poulter’s name to a list of players who either made off-the-record remarks, claim to be misquoted, or simply [photopress:poulter.jpg,full,alignright]should have kept their trap shut while talking about Tiger Woods. Years ago it was Calgary Stephen Ames, who said no one enjoyed playing with Woods, among other things. Those remarks, made to Calgary columnist Bruce Dowbiggin, were apparently part of an off-the-record conversation and Ames has never forgiven the writer for going back on his word. Of course Ames would later make remarks about Woods’ driving prior to a matchplay event, only to lose 9 and 8 to a ramped up Woods.
Then there everyone’s favourite pro, Rory Sabbatini, who made these remarks about Woods last year:
“The funny thing is, after watching him play last Sunday, I think he’s more beatable than ever. I think there’s a few fortuitous occasions out there that really changed the round for him at Wachovia. And realising that gives me even more confidence to go in and play with him on Sunday again.”
We all know how that ended, though Sabbatini has played very well as of late. Still, he wasn’t hanging with Woods on Sunday in San Diego.
The latest player to say they can take on Tiger is Englishman Ian Poulter, who at this point is still better known for his outrageous outfits (Union Jack pants! Pink hair!) than his actual golf.
Golf World UK, in an edition that sports Poulter naked covered by a golf bag, quotes him as saying:
“The trouble is I don’t rate anyone else. Don’t get me wrong, I really respect every professional golfer, but I know I haven’t played to my full potential and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger.”
“… the problem is I know I haven’t played to my full potential yet. And, when that happens, it will just be me and Tiger.”
“I can work harder than I am now, and that should help me become a better player. I don’t want to put a limit on how far I can go.”
And his prediction for the year’s first two majors?
Masters: “Put Tiger down for that one”.
U.S. Open: “You can put me down for that one.”
Poulter, who apparently made the remarks in an interview at his home, was scrambling yesterday to put some context on them. That context, it turns out, was that he claims to have been misquoted, though I’d bet a tape recorder was running. At other times Poulter seem to indicate that yes, he did make the comment, but that it was taken out of context:
Had I been quoted verbatim, all those people who have been left thinking I’m a complete idiot would have understood where I was coming from. Instead, my answers were truncated and distorted.
When the magazine asked if I thought I could ever get to No 1, I laughed out loud before replying, ‘No I can’t, really, not while Tiger is playing golf.’ When it came to, “Can you get to No 2?,” I said yeah, I did think that was possible. Lots of players would have said the same.
I went on to say that it would be a dream to see Tiger Woods and then me in the World Rankings.
Is that being disrespectful to the rest? I don’t think so.
As someone who started out in a professional’s shop, I genuinely respect and look up to all the players out here. Not only that, but they are my friends. Why would I want to upset them?”
Interestingly, I didn’t really see the comments as inflammatory, not like Sabattini’s remarks, which were directed specifically at Tiger. I don’t expect him to take a US Open now or likely ever — he’ll be too distracted by designing his latest pair of trousers — but what is wrong with saying you can be No.2 in the world? Seems like something to aspire to if you’re a professional golfer. He’s right — it isn’t disrespectful of anyone. It is simply showing faith in one’s abilities.
Woods showed both a sense of humourand the ability to put Poulter in his place when asked about the comments while playing in Dubai (where he ran away with an early lead, but is struggling today):
One person who is unlikely to forget in a hurry, however, is Tiger Woods, who took time out of his busy schedule to pass comment on Poulter. “So he’s No2 in the world rankings now.”