LIV Golf star Ian Poulter has slammed the onslaught of criticism he received when joining the Saudi-backed competition last year.
The Englishman plays as part of the Majesticks team alongside Lee Westwood, Sam Horsfield and Henrik Stenson as in the highly scrutinised event that has been labelled as a sports washing attempt to cover Saudi Arabian human rights atrocities.
In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, Poulter aggressively hit back at the level of criticism thrown his way after the first LIV Golf event in Mexico.
‘Sarnies covered in HP’ to help fight LIV Golf criticism
The 47-year-old spoke of binge-eating ‘sarnies covered in HP sauce’ every day as backlash left him feeling ‘awful’. He added: "I would never admit that I was stress-eating, but who knows the way the mind works. I was getting ridiculous abuse and, in that sense, they were tough times."
The golfer supposedly alluded to being aware of issues in Saudi Arabia but argued that he took on the opportunity as a chance to provide for his family.
Poulter lives with his wife Katie and family at the luxurious Lake Nona Golf & Country Club in Orlando, Florida. Famous neighbours are believed to include Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose and former Open champion Henrik Stenson.
Ian and Katie have four children together named Aimee-Leigh, Luke, Joshua and Lily-Mai.
Ian Poulter: ‘I don’t understand why they take it so far’
Poulter said: "I don't just think of my kids, but their kids and their kids and that is what I work for. People might have their objections. I'm not sure I get it, but fair enough. Yet I don't understand why they take it so far. I think that, in many respects, the media are to blame for the extent of this abuse."
The fee for Poulter to join the LIV Golf tournament is said to be more than £20 million. Following his putting pen to paper, the golfer was suspended from the PGA Tour and European Tour. That suspension has now been lifted pending an upcoming court case.
The star has documented his decision to join the Saudi game on Netflix show Full Swing, which he has said brought apologies from some of those who had sent hateful messages online.
What is Ian Poulter’s net worth?
Ian Poulter’s winnings over the years are believed to rack up to around $28.5 million. He places on the top 40 earners on the PGA Tour list and in the top 10 of the FP World Tour career money list having won over €27 million.
The star is believed to have been offered between £20 and £25 million to join the LIV Golf competition. He is thought to have earnt around £2.5 million in the eight events he played last year and is set to add to that in the 14 fixtures this year.
Ian Poulter’s net worth is reported to be £50 million.
What are the human rights issues in Saudi Arabia?
Human Rights Watch report that ‘Saudi authorities in 2021 carried out arbitrary arrests, trials, and convictions of peaceful dissidents’ with dozens of human rights activists serving long prison sentences for criticising authorities.
In 2021, Mustafa Hashem al-Darwish was executed for his alleged participation in violent anti-government protests as a 17-year-old.
Saudi women must obtain a male guardian's approval to marry, leave prison or obtain certain healthcare. Discrimination against women is rife and men can file cases against wives, daughters and female relatives under their guardianship for 'disobedience'. These have previously resulted in arrest and imprisonment.
There are no written laws in Saudi Arabia concerning sexual orientation or gender identity, but judges use uncodified Islamic law to punish same-sex relations. This can include flogging and death. Despite recent reforms, migrant workers continue to be tied to their employers, who retain considerable control over their rights and freedom of movement.