Ian Poulter Claims Rory McIlroy 'Still Is My Friend' Amid Golf's Civil War

The 47-year-old also revealed there was no tension between him and other players during last week’s Dubai Desert Classic

Side by side images of Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy
(Image credit: Getty Images)

After last week’s build-up to the Dubai Desert Classic where Rory McIlroy blanked LIV Golf player Patrick Reed it would be easy to conclude that the World No.1 is no longer on speaking terms with anyone on the Saudi-funded circuit.

That view would likely be strengthened taking into account McIlroy's response to being asked if he could rekindle his friendship with another LIV player, Sergio Garcia: "No way."

However, according to Ian Poulter, who signed for LIV Golf last June, that couldn’t be further from the truth. During an Instagram Q&A, the 47-year-old answered a series of questions, one of which asked if he spoke to McIlroy during his time in Dubai. Poulter responded: “Yes, he is my friend and still is my friend. I can’t explain it any simpler than that. Sad that these questions would be asked. He played great this week. I let him win.”

Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter talk during a practice before the 2022 Open at St Andrews

(Image credit: Getty Images)

McIlroy put the controversy of the build-up behind him to claim his first win of the year by holding off the challenge of Reed, with Poulter finishing not far behind in a tie for sixth. The Englishman also claimed that, despite the pending legal hearing to determine the future of LIV Golf players on the DP World Tour, there was no tension between him and other players during the tournament. He wrote: “Honestly, I have friendships with many, many lads that I played with for decades. That friendship is built on respect. Thus friendships are still there. No need for that to ever change.”

The legal hearing is due to begin in London next Monday. Depending on the outcome, it could mean the Dubai Desert Classic marked Poulter’s DP World Tour swan song, but he doesn’t see why he won’t continue on the Tour in the future: “Why wouldn’t I?" he asked. "I am still a member and have been for 24 straight years. And always kept my card. Even when playing on the PGA Tour I always played at least my minimum or more most years.”

One of the intriguing things that was noted about Poulter’s appearance last week was that he wore his old IJP design apparel. However, according to Poulter, there is an equally interesting reason for the decision. He wrote: “We are now a team which means we will be having new sponsors moving forward for our @majesticksgc.“ He continued: “It was nice to wear some of my old @ijp_design clothes before we start wearing team @majesticksgc gear. ”

The 2023 LIV Golf season will see the team aspect grow in importance, with 12 team franchises that can eventually be sold off to be self-owned and self-financed and able to bring in their own sponsorships and merchandising revenue. No doubt, the introduction of team apparel will be a means of realising that ambition.

Poulter also looked further ahead to the possibility of playing in this year's Ryder Cup. Prior to last week’s tournament, he hinted at a Ryder Cup snub even if he qualifies. However, he confirmed he's still targeting a Team Europe place for September's tournament at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, even though he admits it’s a long shot. He wrote: “I will try, but I’m not playing enough events and not in the Majors, so will be really tough. That’s why this weekend would have been a good start to have big finish, shame about the last. I will still try.”

Poulter is in the field for this week's Saudi International. The 2023 LIV Golf season begins on 24 February.

Mike Hall

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.