Rory McIlroy has triggered a fresh row with his former Ryder Cup team-mates Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood after renewing his attack on the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf.
McIlroy took aim at another LIV rebel, Henrik Stenson, over the decision to strip him of the 2023 Ryder Cup captaincy after he chose to leave the PGA Tour and DP World Tour for the lucrative riches on offer.
Stenson had been set to captain Team Europe at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome earlier this year, but the Swede’s decision to sign with LIV meant he forfeited that right, with Luke Donald coming in and replacing him.
The likes of Poulter, Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia, all former Ryder Cup stars, were also prevented from representing Europe after being banned by the DP World Tour, a ruling McIlroy wholeheartedly endorsed.
However, after the bombshell defection of Jon Rahm to LIV earlier this week for a reported £450 million, McIlroy suggested the rules might need to be amended to allow the world No 3 and reigning Masters champion to compete in future Cups.
Lou Stagner, a prominent golf performance coach, said on Twitter: “I wonder if @McIlroyRory also wants to change the rules so Stenson can captain the team?” to which McIlroy responded: “The best thing to happen to the 2023 Euro Ryder Cup team was Henrik going to LIV!”
That prompted first Poulter and then another former Team Europe Ryder Cup stalwart Westwood to hit back at the Northern Irishman.
First Poulter said sarcastically: “Guys calm down …. This is a parody fake account.. Rory McIlroy wouldn’t say this. it’s fake I promise you. He is a class act and wouldn’t say that about a Team mate.”
Then Westwood added cheekily of the exchange:
Nice to see the season of good will in full swing! Merry Christmas!!! https://t.co/d95JWiXDR9
— Lee Westwood (@WestwoodLee) December 10, 2023
McIlroy and Poulter, who represented Team Europe together on six occasions, have had a tense relationship ever since the latter moved to LIV.
Poulter denied in the summer that anything had changed between them. “There’s obviously been a lot out there in the media,” said the Englishman. “But I spoke to Rory several months ago, and my relationship with him is the same as it’s always been.”
But McIlroy, speaking ahead of the Ryder Cup in early October, accused Poulter of fuelling “resentment” by challenging his DP World Tour ban.
“I think at this stage, if you’ve gone over to play on another tour then go and play on that tour,” McIlroy told the BBC. “You’ve basically left all your peers behind to make more money, which is fine. But just stay over there. Don’t try to come back and play over here again.
“I think they are going to miss being here more than we’re missing them. This week is a realisation that the decision they made has led to not being a part of this week, and that’s tough.”
Donald’s team went on to hammer the United States 16½-11½ in Rome, with the Englishman’s calm leadership hailed as instrumental in that win and leading to a change in regulations to allow him to retain the captaincy for the 2025 match at Bethpage.