Poulter and Westwood accuse US of dirty tricks in Ryder Cup
Published 23/09/2008 | 10:24
Nick Faldo's wet weather warning apart, Celtic Manor would have been rubbing their hands together at the events at Valhalla on Sunday evening. Not only did the US victory restore the competitive feel to the Ryder Cup, but there is now real needle between the two sides. And needle sells.
For starters, how many promotional posters will now feature the images of Ian Poulter and Anthony Kim? Don King would surely have a field day in building up the bad blood between two stars of the show. "The Peacock v The Cock Sparrow", anyone? After Poulter's furious reaction to their ugly confrontation, take the big bird to win by KO.
"I was bodychecked by a certain member of their side on Saturday afternoon," Poulter said. "He was someone who just decided I wasn't there and that he would like to walk through me as opposed to walking around me as I was walking off the tee. He decided to drop his right shoulder into me. It was pathetic."
And Poulter told Kim so in language as colourful as anything in his trouser collection. "Yeah, I said something to him, and it wasn't 'That's not very nice, Anthony'," revealed Poulter. "He had played in the morning and hadn't played very well and decided to walk around in the afternoon and make his point – to come to the tee-box and walk right through me. It wasn't very professional and not what you'd expect from a fellow professional. It was over the line. I don't take too kindly to someone you respect as a golfer trying to barge their way through you as if you weren't there. Like I said, that's pathetic. This is the Ryder Cup. It should be played in the right spirit. And he should grow up."
What clearly incensed Poulter most was that Kim was not even involved in the fourball in which he and Graeme McDowell beat Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry. "I don't know if there was a strategy there," wondered Poulter, "but it didn't work. It made me more determined." The incident may have served to fire up Kim, as well, as the 23-year-old put the mediocrity of the Saturday foursomes behind him to crush Sergio Garcia 5 and 4. There was plenty of personal tension in that encounter, too, meaning Kim may well be a marked man come Newport.
Not that the Welsh crowd will target him; at least not if you believe Lee Westwood. After claiming to have been "abused from start to finish" the Englishman provided a comparison between the European and American galleries. "If you look at the crowds when we played in Europe there was a silence when they missed a putt and there was a clap when we won a hole," he said. "There is not the clapping and the cheering and all that kind of stuff straight away. I thought that was a thing of the past. But you know they were incited to do that."
In this regard, Westwood was referring to the American captain, Paul Azinger, who on the eve of the match advised the home crowd "that it's OK to cheer when Europe miss a putt". "It is down to the captain, you do have to say that, yeah," Westwood said. "That's what separates golf from every other sport. It is me and my set of clubs against the next guy and his set of clubs. Other than the wind and the rain there is no outside agency that should get involved."
Westwood was not even safe from the hecklers in his hotel room. "It started at 12:30 Saturday night when I got a phone call to wish me 'good luck'," he said before revealing his parents had received the same message at 4.30am. "Yeah, because they got the wrong hotel and rang the wrong Westwood room. I found that quite amusing. It upset my dad's preparation for walking around the course.
"Then there was the ghost [decked out in a 'Scream' mask] that jumped out at me between 5 and 6 and went, 'Booooooo' right like that to my face and he was the one that got ejected, but he was the one that made me laugh. All of the abuse that I got was fairly nasty, and one was a particularly nasty reference to my mother on the 12th tee. It only came from a minority. Some people don't know the difference between supporting their team and abusing the opposition team."
Azinger denied any supporters had been ejected and was not about to let anyone besmirch the atmosphere. "I talked to a bunch of the police officers and they didn't throw anybody outk," he said. "So I thought the crowd was phenomenal. I thought everybody was beautifully behaved. I'm real, real proud. There was a lot of alcohol served and there were no fights going on, nobody screaming at inappropriate times. I couldn't be prouder of the fans from this nation. The incidents, if there were some, were few and far between."