Hong Kong – A grateful Ian Poulter was due
to tee off at the Hong Kong Open Thursday after completing a last-minute dash
to take part in the tournament and save his hopes of playing in the 2016 Ryder
The Englishman took the place of former
major winner Rich Beem, who was asked to drop out of the event after it emerged
Poulter had been pushed out of the world top 50 and was in danger of losing his
European Tour membership.
Any player wishing to play for Europe in
the Ryder Cup must retain European Tour membership and so European Tour
officials asked Beem to step aside.
Poulter said he only realised the problem
on Monday morning, and by Tuesday he was on a plane to Asia.
After landing in Hong Kong from the United
States on Wednesday, Poulter admitted he had “got this one wrong” and
expressed his gratitude to the American.
“I feel very sorry for Rich to have
been put in this situation. He has been very gracious and it is a lovely
gesture,” said the 39-year-old, who played a key role in Europe’s
come-from-behind 2012 Ryder Cup triumph at Medinah.
Poulter dropped to number 51 after Andy
Sullivan and Emiliano Grillo both won tournaments last week, meaning he was
ineligible for the WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai in China and would have
fallen one short of competing in the necessary 13 events on the “Race to
Dubai” to retain his European Tour membership.
He added: “It’s unbelievably generous
of him (Beem) to say ‘that’s fine’. I am so grateful that he has given me the
opportunity to get my numbers in.”
Poulter has had an uneven season, which has
seen his world rankings plummet.
But he admitted he was caught unawares and
had to take dramatic action to save his season. “To drop that far in the
World Rankings was not expected,” he said.
“Obviously this wouldn’t have happened
if I had played better, but even still, dropping the way I did in the last
couple of weeks was drastic. It was an incredible drop.”
Poulter, who has not ended the year out of
the top 50 since 2005, admitted the mix-up was down to “bad play and poor
He added: “It’s really bizarre. It’s
put everyone in a bad position and I am just really grateful to everyone for
helping me out.”
The situation was complicated even further
by the fact he had sent both his passports off for mainland China visas so he
could play in the WGC-HSBC Champions and the BMW Masters in Shanghai.
“I didn’t realise until I woke up on
Monday morning,” he said. “I woke up and saw the World Rankings and
realised the situation straight away.” His passports were returned with
just hours to spare on Tuesday.
“They arrived at 07:15 on Tuesday and
I took off at 09 00. If they had arrived at midday I was done because I
couldn’t have physically made the flight in time and I would have missed the
start of the tournament.”
The mad dash to Hong Kong meant he has had
previous little time to prepare for the US$2 million event, the final
tournament of the regular European 2015 tour season.
“It’s not been great preparation – I
don’t have a caddie, I don’t have a yardage book, I don’t know how the course
is playing or how the greens are running or anything. I have no idea. So it
will be a bit of a case of suck it and see tomorrow and see how we go.”