He Did What?!
Ian Poulter, Ryder Cup assassin for the European team, plays both the PGA Tour and the European Tour. Both Tours have minimum event requirements to maintain membership and it takes skillful juggling and travel planning for players like Poults.
In order to be eligible for the European Ryder Cup squad, a player must maintain membership on the European Tour. The European Tour requires members to play a minimum of 13 events per season. There are five events left in the season. Poulter needs four more starts to remain in good standing and one of those events was scheduled to be the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in two weeks, which he won back in 2012.
A series of events on both Tours along with the resulting effect on the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) sent Poulter’s plans into disarray:
- Emiliano Grillo wins the Frys.com Open moving him from 72nd to 36th in the world.
- Andy Sullivan cruises to a win at the Portugal Masters sending him from 66th to 47th.
Their moves into the top 50 in the OWGR pushed Poulter to #51 in the world, .01 behind # 50 Hunter Mahan. Being a World Golf Championships event, the HSBC Champions invitations go to the world’s top 50 players, so the 36 year-old Englishman found himself no longer playing in the tournament.
Poulter hadn’t registered for this weekend’s UBS Hong Kong Open and all of the sponsor exemptions had been given out. He desperately needed to find a way into the tournament if he was going to remain eligible to play in next year’s Ryder Cup at Hazeltine.
Enter Rich Beem.
The 2002 PGA Champion (played at Hazeltine) held one of those sponsor exemptions and was asleep in his Hong Kong hotel room Monday night when his phone rang.
A tour official from the European Tour was on the other end and asked if Beem would be willing to give up his exemption for Poulter.
“At the end of the day, I was their obvious choice. I wasn’t going to say ‘no’ and be a jerk. It was a situation where the right thing needed to happen. And this was the right thing.”
Poulter received his visa to travel to Hong Kong with two hours to spare before his flight left. His regular caddie is on vacation, so he will have to use a local looper in a spot start.
So if the biggest villain in recent European dominance of the Ryder Cup shows up at Hazeltine, he can thank an American.
Poulter owns a 12-4-2 Ryder Cup record. His string of five birdies in a row on Saturday at Medinah was a catalyst for Europe’s amazing comeback victory the next day in 2012. Over a stretch of three Cups from ’08-’12, Poults earned 11 points for the European team.
Despite his 0-1-2 record at Gleneagles and regardless of his form leading up to the competition, the Ryder Cup brings the best out of Poulter. He just may get another chance at Hazeltine now.