Poults happy for second best – but is the media to blame for furore?

It seems I made a gross misjudgement about Ian Poulter in a previous post.

Following his now infamous interview with Golf World where he was quoted as saying he was the only player who, on his game, could compete with Tiger Woods, I actually gave him credit for being one of the few golfers with the self-confidence not to be happy playing for second place.

Thanfkully Poults has now clarified his position and claimed he was misquoted in the interview. Unfortunately, he is now adamant that he, along with every other golfer on the planet can only play for Woods’ leftovers.

As long as Woods is playing, Poulter claims, he can only ever play for second spot – which, he believes he is good enough to achieve.

Can you imagine if that had been David’s attitude when facing the mighty Goliath? The plucky youngster would have been beaten to a pulp, the Bible would have been a fable light and sporting commentators would have had to invent a new analogy for the triumphant underdog.

Golfing mortals (ie, everyone apart from Woods) should never allow themselves to believe that they cannot compete with him, let alone say it in public, even if it is the truth. I see no point whatsoever in teeing up in the same tournament with Woods if they have lost before even hitting a ball.

Poulter’s admission is yet another damning indictment of the professionals who are satisfied to make a living in Woods’ shadow without trying to tackle him head on in the spirit of sport.

However, the interview also flags up a worrying and deep-rooted trend in the media to string up (or lynch if I dare say the word) those who are prepared to speak their mind.

Too many sportsmen, not only golfers, are content to give the bland, run-of-the-mill stock answers to journalists’ questions. But is this because we are now breeding sportsmen completely lacking in personality, humour or charisma? Of course not. It is because they are petrified that if they open their mouths – even with tongue-in-cheek – then they can and will be crucified in the media for daring to have an opinion.

Of course, the media craves sensational headlines and will use the material it has to builds up as controversial a story as possible – and note, I admit that I have been guilty of this before. That’s what sells magazines and newspapers and certainly Golf World will have benefitted in the short term from the publicity this has caused.

However, the long term damage will be that no-one, not even Poulter will dare to stick their neck out and we will be left only with the monotone production-line sportsmen and journalists who have nothing to write about.

Who will buy the newspapers and magazines then?

Poulter’s hairspray goes to his head

Poor old Ian Poulter. Either he’s become delusional from sniffing the chemicals in his hair products or a tongue-in-cheek comment to make a dull magazine interview seem more interesting has gone badly wrong. 

 The English golfer – yes, the one with the funny trousers and the cockatiel hairdo – has been much derided for commenting in an interview with Golf World that he believes he is the only man who can compete with Tiger Woods.

“The trouble is I don’t rate anyone else. I haven’t played to my true potential yet. And when that happens it will just be me and Tiger.”

Self-confidence is an undoubted strength and a necessary trait for any top sportsman. Self-delusion on the other hand, is a terminal weakness and it is a fine line.

But I find it difficult to criticise Poulter for his comments. Chances are he was merely trying to liven up the traditional golf interview standard answers – I’m looking to force my way into the top 10/20/50 this year; I just need to play more consistently; I’m looking forward to the Ryder Cup but it will be much harder than previous years; There’s lots of great players out there and the standard is so high; I’m sure a Brit will win a Major again soon and so on and so forth.

I’m not sure how many more interviews I can stomach reading along those lines but one thing is for sure, as soon as I heard tongues wagging about Poulters interview, I was straight onto the Golf World website to find out  exactly why.

If the tongue-in-cheek angle was not what he was after, then surely Poulter’s worst crime is being a bit too vocal about his inner confidence. If he doesn’t believe that he can beat Woods then there’s surely no point in teeing up every week. Or, as Ricky Bobby eloquently put it in Talladega Nights: “If you ain’t first, you’re last!”

There are too many golfers out there who are happy to fight for Woods’ leftovers rather than tackling him head on. Granted, with just nine professional victories and a tame 9th as his best finish in a Major, Poulter is probably not the name on people’s minds when they think about a challenger to the world number one.

He is a good player, sometimes a very good player, of that there is no doubt but he is not the only one who on their day can mix it with Woods. The trouble is that no-one can do it consistently enough to be considered a threat.

In that sense, Poulter would have been better advised to keep his trap shut until his record merits such an audacious boast. However Poulter has never been one to mince his words.

I am delighted that someone has at least shown the belief, albeit a bit misguided, that they can take on the Tiger and if every professional thought the way Poulter does then Woods would not have such an easy time of it.

I sincerely hope Poulter retains his self belief and continues to brighten up the game of golf – with his dress sense and personality if nothing else. However, at some point he will have to deliver on his promises – starting at the Dubai Desert Classic this week would be a good idea – otherwise he will look very foolish indeed, and I’m not just talking about his hair.

If he continues to plod along at his current level, he will be well advised to apply his hairspray/mousse/gel/gum/wax (or whatever he uses to keep that hair standing so tall) in a well ventilated room, particularly before giving any interviews.