Jun
3
2016
Shucks, Ian Poulter out with foot injury for four months
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Ian Poulter will be sidelined from golf for the next four months, as he has been suffering from an arthritic joint in his right foot for over two years, according to the AP. The injury has worsened recently and it’s reached a point where it’s too painful for the Englishman to walk and practice.

It’s obviously a Ryder Cup year, and if you do the math, the biennial matches between the U.S. and Europe — which will be held at Hazeltine in Minnesota — take place in just under four months (September 30-October 2). Well, that’s certainly convenient for the Americans (we might have a chance this year!!!), as Poulter sparked the greatest comeback in history by a visiting team during the Miracle at Medinah in 2012. (I will never forget witnessing that in person and it was pretty incredible–to this date, the most memorable I’ve seen in my young career–but I don’t recall him making a significant impact in 2014.)

“I am obviously disappointed to be in this situation, especially during a Ryder Cup year,” Poulter told the AP. “Right now, rest and rehab take priority in me returning to full strength later this season. I look forward to resuming a full schedule as soon as I am able.”

Poulter was most likely not going to make the squad this year, as he’s currently ranked 42nd in the European points standings. I mean, you have to scroll down the list pretty far to find his name, and as someone who is slightly familiar with the European Tour (at least more so than your average U.S. media member, thanks to the time I spent covering it last year and will continue to do so in the upcoming months), I saw at least a dozen names ranked ahead of Poulter that I didn’t even recognize.

And he hasn’t been in good form for quite some time. He missed the cut in his last two starts in Texas at the Byron Nelson and the Colonial. Sure, he has one top-3 finish this season in Puerto Rico, the opposite field event to the what was formerly known WGC-Cadillac Championship. Otherwise, he’s finished in the middle of the pack and hasn’t done anything memorable. He’s also dropped down the world rankings to no. 85, his lowest since 2003. His last win dates back to the HSBC Champions in 2012. In these situations, I like to ask, “What have you done for me lately?” Eh.

Undoubtedly, Poulter has an impressive 12-4-2 record in five appearances at the Ryder Cup, and he’s a fiery competitor who definitely doesn’t lack team spirit or energy. The AP is reporting that Poulter will probably be selected as one of Clarke’s vice-captains. Last week Clarke announced that he had picked Thomas Bjorn, Padraig Harrington and Paul Lawrie as three of his five assistants. (Which obviously leaves two open spots.) So, expect to see a fired-up Poulter, howling and fist-pumping with his eyes bulging out of his head, as he works on his cart-driving skills at Hazeltine all week.

[Aside: I’ve spoken to two conspiracy theorists who think Poulter knew he wasn’t going to make the team, so he decided to take the pressure off Captain Darren Clarke, who might feel obligated to pick him as one of his wildcards. I considered it (briefly) since literally the first two people I spoke to voiced the same cynical opinion, but then I was just as quick to discount it when I realized that the new season also starts in four months and Poulter would receive a major medical extension on the PGA Tour for the 2015-16 season if he doesn’t play the rest of the year. The latter obviously makes more sense. As for the European Tour, Poulter is exempt as he’s ranked 7th in the career money list.]

Poulter’s doctor, Ara Suppiah, said: “Ian has been hampered by an arthritic joint in his right foot and the condition has progressed rapidly over the last year warranting numerous cortisone shots (within therapeutic limits) to allow him to play. Further cortisone shots run the real risk of thinning the bones [osteopenia] and stress fractures, which might require treatment in a cast and significant time away from the game.

“We feel that the best option at this stage is to take some time off to allow complete recovery and rehabilitation (including customised orthotics and modification of footwear) of his foot. This will give him the best chance of returning to the game sooner and preventing further deterioration of the affected joint.”

Well, good thing his most important job in the next four months will be driving a golf cart and trying to pump up the European players, who will actually be playing in the matches. Look, as someone who has a lot of experience playing injured and in pain, I don’t wish that upon anyone, so I respect Poulter’s decision to take a step back. I’m sure he made the right choice and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had been advised to take time off sooner and didn’t listen. Hope he has a speedy recovery (but not before October 2!).


I feel the need to explain myself as I retweeted the Poulter news when it broke this morning and then added a sarcastic remark, “Oh man, couldn’t happen to a nicer guy!!!”

Apparently, many on Twitter were floored by my obvious distaste for Poulter. Well, you see, we have some history. I can’t believe it’s been over five years, but I’ll tell the story because it’s really amusing in retrospect. Maybe some of you will recall Poulter’s unprovoked and nasty tweets that frankly served as nothing but misogynistic bullying (which you could argue created a “hostile work environment” — I hear that’s frowned upon!).

In 2011, it was my first full year covering the Tour. I was terrified and extremely nervous because I was a rookie and one of the few women out here. I didn’t exactly feel “welcome,” to say the least. I was always beyond grateful when a colleague made the smallest gesture to help me out or simply have enough compassion to tell me when I’ve made a trivial mistake (instead of bitching and gossiping about it to anyone who will listen).

On Tuesday at the RBC Heritage that year, I got a tip from the Callaway guys that Ernie Els was seriously considering putting a belly putter in his bag for the first time in a competitive round. I remember looking around at the practice green that day and thinking I had never seen so many guys with belly and/or long putters, but naturally, Ernie was the most shocking name because of remarks he had made in the past. We had a nice chat about the situation and it felt like he was pouring his heart out to me a bit – he was so candid and genuine (and it was pretty much my first one-on-one with the legendary South African), and I really got a good sense of how tormented he was over the decision.

Fast forward to the first round on Thursday. Turned out Els did indeed use the belly putter. Another media member and I were waiting to speak with him about it after he finished signing his scorecard. Els’ playing partners Graeme McDowell and Poulter walked out of the trailer and it appeared something was going on, as they were acting a bit weird and whispering, etc. We tried to ask them what was going on, but no one would tell us.

When Els finally emerged, he looked like he was ready to blow up. The other reporter and I caught up with him, and I nervously asked if he had a minute. In all honesty, I couldn’t believe it when Els stopped and said yes. Well, about 30 seconds later, he had some choice words for us and that he had just received a two-shot penalty. (I may have been imagining this, but I swear when he cursed at us, he turned to look at the male reporter, as to not direct the choice words at me.) I had heard stories in the past about Els blowing up at media members, but he would generally always apologize after cooling down and that it was almost a rite of passage as a golf writer to have your head torn off by Ernie at least once.

But I digress. All we could do was try to apologize for not knowing the details of the situation as Els stormed off. (FWIW, that was the only “bad” run-in I’ve ever had with Ernie in nearly six years. He’s actually one of my top 5 favorite guys on tour –not just to interview but also as a person — and has always treated me with respect.)


 

A few hours later, I was the last person left in the media center. I remember finishing up a post and then checking my email when I discovered that the entire page and the one after that were filled with notifications of new Twitter followers. My first thought was, “What happened??” Someone important must have retweeted me or mentioned me.

I still remember the feeling when I saw Poulter’s completely unprovoked tweet — it was like I had been completely sucker-punched in the gut. I turned bright red and did my best not to get emotional. I was just in shock. Especially because it came out of NOWHERE. I mean, the whole thing had nothing to do with Poulter! That was the weirdest part. And it’s not like Ernie needs Poulter to fight his battles for him, either. I seriously would really LOVE to know what inspired that initial tweet.

It’s also worth noting that prior to this, I had always written really positive things about Poulter because I appreciated that he voiced his opinions and didn’t give a crap what other people thought — I respect that even if I didn’t agree with him. I found him rather entertaining.

Today, I tried to find the tweets via search, but apparently Poulter had deleted them. Luckily, I dug up screen shots in my email. Woot!

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A few issues here. First, I wasn’t alone, so it was interesting the male media member wasn’t mentioned. Second, Ernie did stop and talk. (Yeah, like I said, we were shocked, too.) And finally, I was surprised Poulter was so familiar with my work because I had NEVER spoken to him in my life — at least I didn’t recall any encounters — and I had written about him in the past, but it was always very complimentary. I was surprised he even knew my name or who I was, to be honest. I was pretty quiet that year since I was new and trying to figure out what the hell I was doing. (I mean, I’m still working on that!)

I didn’t know what to make of it, but I spoke with several mentors who convinced me Poulter was simply bullying me, not to mention it was sexist since I had been with a male media member during the whole thing. And believe it or not, I’ve never been the type to accuse anyone of an “ism.”

(While I’m venting, I’m really sick of MEN telling me how I should feel or interpret something that was directed at me, but naturally, so many guys are experts. I’m entitled to my own opinions and feelings. But I’m fully aware that Poulter is an equal opportunity asshole. Oh, another thing that’s always confused me: When men who have daughters behave badly, I feel compelled to ask (but usually don’t have the guts), “How would you feel if someone in your position treated your daughter this way? You’d probably want to fight him, right? Well, I am someone’s daughter, too, so maybe think about how you’d want your daughter to be treated if she were in that position.”)

I obviously felt compelled to respond to Poulter.

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Poulter reminded me of a really harmless, innocent encounter from the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach nearly a year prior.

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I mean, seriously, dude? It took me a minute to remember what he was even talking about. I could only laugh after that. So, here’s what happened: it was late in the day on Monday or Tuesday and I had been nervously working up enough courage and talking with players on the range and I literally wandered into what apparently was the players’ lounge at Pebble Beach because I was desperately looking for a bathroom.

If Poulter wanted to blame *someone* about my oh-so-terrible faux pas, security is at the top of that list because they let me in without any questions. Plus, it wasn’t like there was a big sign that said “PLAYERS’ LOUNGE, NO MEDIA ALLOWED.” I can tell you with absolute certainty I would have peed my pants before walking in somewhere I wasn’t allowed. And holy crap, I can’t believe I had the *guts* to try to interview him! What a godawful crime! The horror!

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I recall seeing Poulter when I first walked in and he was alone (I think he was the only player in the whole temporary structure, which was quite large). He didn’t seem busy or preoccupied. In fact, he looked bored just standing around and was picking at the buffet. I thought to myself, “OK, you NEED to try to interview him.” It was only my second tournament with media credentials and I was nervous and didn’t want to do anything, you know, stupid. Well, I finally decided that I’d go to the bathroom and if he was still there doing nothing but staring at the wall, I had to garner up the courage to approach him.

This is almost verbatim how the conversation went.

Me: “Hi, Ian, do you have a minute perchance?”

Ian: “No.” <<glare>>

Me: “Ok, thanks, play well this week!”

Well, I told myself, at least I tried! I couldn’t beat myself up for simply asking politely. Like I said, the encounter was so inconsequential that I didn’t immediately remember it and definitely didn’t expect Ian-freaking-Poulter to drum it up nearly a year later.

Now that I’ve been on Tour for five-plus years (holy crap, where has time gone??), I cannot recall another instance where a player went out of his way over something that wasn’t even his business to publicly shame me for doing nothing but my job. At the time, I didn’t realize this, but I think it passes the smell test for a little something called “workplace harassment”–which I hear is frowned upon!

The whole thing certainly impacted me beyond that evening and I felt very self-conscious just trying to do my job for many months to come. At first, I thought I was weak, but ultimately, these type of incidents only made me stronger and work even harder. I would get upset (but did my best to never let anyone see me cry, so I spent a lot of time in the ladies’ room, but then, I’d quickly let it go and decide to use the negativity as fuel, so I should be thanking naysayers like Poulter. I want to make it clear that I am NOT a victim in any way, shape or form. That is the LAST thing in the world I want. I don’t need sympathy or pity. And to be clear, there were also plenty of people out here that have been kind, helpful and supportive from the get-go.


 

And here’s something else I’ve been thinking about lately, since I’m sharing: It’s absolutely absurd it took me this long to feel comfortable enough to tell this story and not feel anxiety and/or just not care about what media members, players or Tour officials would be murmuring after reading it. Go ahead and complain about it and judge me. Honestly, feel free to bitch about how *wrong* it was for me to feel the way I did and how many times I’ve messed up. Well, I will be the first to admit I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, but I bet if I did everything absolutely perfectly, there would still be people nitpicking *something,” because they made up their mind about me before I ever stepped foot onto a Tour venue. And that’s their problem; not mine. I just don’t care anymore. I don’t need your approval. I don’t want to be part of your club. I don’t need you to like me.

This might be hard to believe, but with all honesty, I had never experienced this kind of blatant sexism and bullying until I started covering golf. I managed to get through high school, college and jobs at one of the most reputable corporate law firms in the country, in one of the largest investment banks in the world (which is considered a household name), in fashion and PR and in fundraising for a nonprofit. Sure, I grew up in a progressive part of the country and I went to a liberal university, and then the jobs I described were based in NYC.

I had never felt like I was inferior because I was a woman or that I couldn’t achieve a goal — however lofty — because of my gender. I consider myself extremely lucky (or maybe I was just ignorant) that I’ve spent most of my life in environments that sought to empower women and taught me that I could do or be whatever I wanted. The last 5-6 years have all been very eye-opening and I’m grateful for the experiences — both positive and negative. I still think I try to see the best in people and I’m thankful for that.

(Whoa, well, I certainly took this in a different direction than I had originally planned, but I guess it’s what happens when you let stuff pent up for so long. I can’t wait for all the glares at The Memorial tomorrow! Oh wait, get a freaking life because it’s pathetic if you’re bothered by any of this.)

I’m actually not one to hold grudges because I think it takes too much energy and I believe in forgiveness, second and even third and sixth chances. It just seems miserable to live life holding onto the past and trivial bullshit. But since the whole incident in 2011, I’ve only seen Poulter act like an arrogant and rude bully, who is “better” than anyone who doesn’t own 10 Ferraris. Last I checked being a gagillionaire doesn’t make you superior. In other words, I haven’t really seen or heard of any redeeming qualities from Poulter. I have witnessed him being a jerk/bully to other reporters who have tried to interview him.

There’s still time, though. After all, I always try to keep an open mind. I truly mean it when I say I hope he has a speedy recovery — it is unbearable to be sidelined by a nagging injury and play in pain.