In the early stages of LIV Golf, before there were confirmed stars joining, everyone was interested in who their ‘whale’ would be.
A whale in business being the person that would make a huge splash, the statement signing, the big star.
While Phil Mickelson was linked and he was perhaps the most high-profile name, Mickelson was 50, and despite a historic win at the 2021 PGA Championship, his best days were well behind him.
Dustin Johnson would be LIV’s whale; a golfer still operating at a high level, still competing in majors.
But LIV couldn’t operate as a legitimate tour without filling out the roster, and it couldn’t pull many of the top players away from the PGA TOUR. This is where the second tier of golfers come in, the mid-carders if you like.
Two of the most prominent were Lee Westwood, arguably the greatest golfer to have never won a major, and Ian Poulter, Ryder Cup legend, albeit with a combined age of nearly 90.
While Poulter never reached Westwood’s level as a golfer, he’s always been the more eye-catching of the two, with the spiky blond hair, the extravagant trousers and his outspoken nature. In many ways, he was a perfect fit for LIV.
And, in his mid-40s, LIV was perhaps a perfect fit for Poulter. The Englishman never really competed for majors, but did briefly crack the world’s top 5 after his WGC Match Play win in 2010, and was certainly in the twilight of his career when the call came.
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The controversy around LIV Golf wasn’t simply that it was a breakaway tour, but where the source of the money financing it was coming from.
In episode three of Full Swing, Money or Legacy, you see both sides of the argument; that by joining LIV, Poulter would be able to spend more time with his family, as well as the huge financial incentive for a player whose financial returns from golf are diminishing; the other side, however, is how unnecessary it is for a man like Poulter to join LIV considering who is financing the tour.
We see his house in Florida, his multi-million pound mansion in Buckinghamshire and his private jet flying him across the Atlantic. We don’t even see his collection of Ferraris.
But we also see a golfer battling with age and increasing self-doubt, beginning to miss more cuts and seeing himself slide down the world rankings.
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Having being eliminated from the WGC Match Play with a match still to play, we see Poulter at the 2022 PGA Championship, where he missed the cut by one shot.
More than half the field typically miss the cut at every event, and for some it's more common than others, but Poulter really gives the viewer insight into how infuriating it really feels, to spend a week at a tournament away from your family and miss out on the weekend - and a paycheque - by one shot.
His missed cut at the PGA Championship saw Poulter fall from 83rd to 91st in the world. A golfer trying to get back into the top 50 was going backwards.
Poulter spoke so passionately about the agony of missed cuts, and with seven of them in his last 17 events, and it becomes easier to understand why a tour with guaranteed money and no cuts appealed.
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