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European Golfers: Where Have the Rules of Trash-Talking Gone?

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2011

NEWPORT, WALES - SEPTEMBER 30:  Rory McIlroy (L) and Lee Westwood of Europe walk together during a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

There are no formal rules when it comes to trash talking, but if there were, the first rule would undoubtedly be that no athlete can talk the talk until they can walk the walk.

Based on the amount of gibberish coming out of the mouths of Lee Westwood, Rory McIlory and Ian Poulter—directed mostly towards Tiger Woods and the poor state of his game—you’d think that these three men have combined to win 30 majors instead of the zero majors they’ve actually won.

Westwood does most of his trash-talking through Twitter.

Poulter runs his mouth to anyone that will listen, often while wearing a pink pair of pants.

And McIlroy typically goes the media conference route for his trash-talking.

This generation has experienced two truly great golfers and two truly great golfers only: Woods and Phil Mickelson—and even Mickelson probably needs to accomplish more to be considered one of the game’s true greats.

The rest have been and will continue to be members of a mostly uninteresting supporting cast.  

Lee Westwood has won a single golf tournament since November 2009, and his greatest gift to the game thus far might just be exposing a severely flawed World Golf Ranking system that placed a man—Westwood—at No. 1 despite no majors and a single win in the past 15 months.

Poulter has won a single PGA Tour event. And forget winning a major—this guy has only finished in the top 10 at majors three times in his entire career.

Poulter may eventually be considered a great Ryder Cup player, but does anyone know Jack Nicklaus’ Ryder Cup record?

I didn’t think so.

McIlory, although just 21 years old, has only won two events.  He’s still young, you may say, and that’s correct.  But by the age of 21, Woods was winning the Masters by a margin of 12 strokes.

McIlory has demonstrated and inability to thrive in the game’s most pressure-packed situations, which does not bode well for his chances of racking up multiple majors over the course of his career.  

If Woods is Babe Ruth, Westwood is Mario Mendoza and Poulter and McIlory are the equivalent of nosebleed section fans yelling “You suck.”

Woods accomplished more in 2000 than these three men have combined to accomplish in their entire careers.

Perhaps trash-talking in golf is so new that the likes of Westwood, Poulter and McIlroy aren’t really aware of the unwritten rules of trash-talking.   

Woods has not even acknowledged the most recent round of trash-talking coming from the other side of the pound, and why should he?  The dude has accomplished more in a year than these three men have combined to accomplish in their lifetimes.

There are only three active players on the European Tour that have earned the right to talk even a miniscule level of trash to Woods, yet none of these men have done so:

1.  Padraig Harrington (three majors)

2.  Graeme McDowell (reigning U.S. Open Champion that actually took Woods down at the Chevron World Challenge in December)

3.  Martin Keymer (PGA Champion and undeniably the best golfer in the world right now, no matter what the flawed WGRs may say)

If Woods really wanted to respond to Westwood, McIlory and Poulter’s needling, he could do so with a simple number that would shut them up for a very long time—14.

In golf, the majors are all that really matter—and Woods leads Westwood, McIlory and Poulter 14-0 in that category.

For more PGA Tour news, insight and analysis, check out The Tour Report.

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