Poulter gets late entry to keep European membership
HONG KONG (AP) With no time to spare, Ian Poulter was rushing from Florida to Hong Kong on Tuesday to keep his European Tour membership, and to save his chances of being eligible to play in the Ryder Cup next year.
And he owes it all former PGA champion Rich Beem, who gave up his spot in the Hong Kong Open.
Poulter was planning to play in the HSBC Champions in two weeks in Shanghai, part of a schedule that would allow him to reach the minimum 13 tournaments required to keep his European Tour membership.
But with Andy Sullivan winning the Portugal Masters and Emiliano Grillo winning the Frys.com Open, they moved into the top 50 and bumped out Poulter, who had to be in the top 50 this week to be eligible for the HSBC Champions. It was too late to enter the Hong Kong Open, and all the invitations had been taken.
That's where Beem stepped in.
The European Tour said it approached Beem about the situation, and Beem agreed to let Poulter have his spot in the field.
Poulter thanked Beem on Twitter for giving up his invitation. ''Where would you like to take you for dinner?'' he tweeted.
This might have been more valuable than that. European Tour membership is required to play in the Ryder Cup, even the captain's picks. Poulter has a 12-4-2 record in the Ryder Cup, and he was largely responsible for Europe's record-tying comeback to win in Medinah in 2012.
Getting the spot in Hong Kong was only part of the drama. Poulter needed a visa, and that was only returned to him about two hours before he boarded a flight from Orlando to New York to make the connection to Hong Kong.
''A mad 24 hours,'' Poulter said on Instagram. ''Never dull in the Poulter saga.''
Poulter was due to arrive in Hong Kong on Wednesday afternoon, meaning he will not see the golf course until it begins on Thursday. He is a past champion of the event, and in this situation, simply starting the tournament is more important than his performance. He said he would hire a local caddie for the week.
Poulter monitors the world ranking as close as any player and did not see a scenario where he would drop five spots to No. 51.
''You could say poor play and poor planning,'' he said on Instagram. ''But thanks to Rich for giving me his spot.''
Beem, who also works as an analyst for Sky Sports, planned to join the European Tour Productions commentary team for the Hong Kong Open.