Ian Poulter is used to playing in front of rowdy fans. But he revealed on Wednesday that the verbal abuse went too far at the Players Championship, where he said it was over the line.
The fan behavior began, Poulter said, during Saturday’s pairing with Brian Gay. It got so bad during Poulter’s third-round 75 that Gay apologized for the behavior of his countrymen. “You obviously know there’s a problem if your playing partner doesn’t feel very comfortable or he apologized and said he’s embarrassed for the local support at TPC, and he apologized. So when it gets to that level that your playing partner has to apologize for fans, then obviously clearly there’s a few that stepped over the line.”
Poulter’s remarks came on the heels of a first-round victory over Kevin Kisner at the WGC-Match Play at Austin Country Club. The win avenged Kisner’s 8&6 drubbing of Poulter in last year’s semifinal. They also came a day after Rory McIlroy spoke out on the challenges of controlling fan behavior.
“For the most part, the fans are amazing,” he continued. “When you’ve got 25 to 30,000 fans that follow an event, you’ve always got a few that unfortunately have a couple too many beers, that are there with a group of guys, and obviously they get a bit of guts, courage and one spurs on another one. So it’s a shame in this day and age where people get great satisfaction from trying to disturb or put off athletes.
“I wouldn’t call myself an athlete, but anyway, I just did,” he added, tongue-in-cheek.
Poulter is used to hearing from fans, of course. He takes great pleasure in ginning up the European faithful each Ryder Cup, and he plays with a frenzied passion that brings out strong emotions from the gallery. There have been past incidents with Poulter and fans’ cell phones, heckling at last year’s U.S. Open and even with Poulter reaching out to one abusive fan’s employer. But he said the abuse crosses a line when his family is there to see him.
“It’s disappointing is what it is, when you’ve got your family and your children in the crowd and a 17-year old, 14-year-old, 10-year-old and 7-year-old and they’re listening to people verbally abusing their dad. It’s not a nice thing for a kid to hear. It can be potentially damaging to them to hear that level of stuff. It upsets them. And it’s not right.
“So the Tour, I mean, I’m sure they’re trying to address that situation. It’s a shame it happens but unfortunately it does and hopefully we can stamp it out.”
Poulter tweeted about the incident at the time. “No bad comments or abuse from anyone can take away from the special time you get with your children,” he wrote, posting a picture with his son.
Poulter will resume play with a match against Keith Mitchell on Thursday afternoon.