Ian Poulter completed his last-minute dash to the Hong Kong Open on Wednesday and immediately put on record his thanks to Rich Beem for handing him a place in this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open.
Poulter landed in Hong Kong after a 15-hour flight from New York at 19:00 on Wednesday evening and will tee off in the first round at the Hong Kong Golf Club at midday on Thursday.
After falling out of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking on Monday (October 19), having dropped nine spots, from 42ndto 51st, in the space of just two weeks, Poulter became ineligible for the upcoming WGC – HSBC Champions, meaning the Englishman would not have been able to play the minimum number of 13 European Tour events on the 2015 Race to Dubai to retain his Membership for next season.
When approached and apprised of the situation by Tour Officials, Beem, who had already travelled from Texas to Hong Kong, generously agreed to step aside in order to let Poulter have that invitation and therefore fulfill his Membership obligations.
“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 Ryder Cup star.
“It’s obviously really unfortunate that Rich has basically been asked to give his invite back. I didn’t want that, the Tour didn’t want that and I don’t think anyone would want to ask a guy who had flown halfway round the world to play a tournament to give his spot up.
“It’s unbelievably generous of him to say that’s fine. I am so grateful that he has given me the opportunity to get my numbers in. If he hadn’t done that then everyone would have been in a situation that no-one would have wanted.”
Poulter is an avid follower of the World Ranking, and was shocked to have fallen so many places in such a short space of time.
“To drop that far in the World Rankings was not expected,” he said. “I knew when the cut-off was and I am very good with the World Rankings and doing the calculations. 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.
“It’s really bizarre. It’s put everyone in a bad position and I am just really grateful to everyone for helping me out. It’s down to bad play and poor management of my schedule and neither of things are good. I guess that’s the risk your run when you have two tour cards and you are trying to play two schedules. We got this one wrong, but I am here to try and play as good as I can.”
As if the situation was not bad enough, the saga was further complicated by the fact Poulter was not in possession of either of his two passports when he realised the predicament he was in on Monday morning.
“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.
“It was a shock to the system to realise that I wasn’t going to make my numbers, and then you throw the passports situation into the mix. I have two passports but I had to send them both for my Chinese visas for the HSBC Champions and BMW Masters. I had originally sent my new one, but then the passport people said they needed the other one as well because that was the last one I had a Chinese visa in.
“It was so lucky that they came back that day. Because they were in the system and being processed, it was impossible to expedite them any quicker. They arrived at 7:15am on Tuesday and I took off at 9:00am. 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.”
Now that he is in Hong Kong, Poulter, winner of the UBS Hong Kong Open in 2010, is hoping he can draw a line under the whole saga with a strong performance at the Hong Kong Golf Club against the odds.
“I have been practising at home and hopefully the game will be okay,” he said. “The World Ranking situation is not good. I have been throwing points away frivolously all season and it is time to turn that around.
“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.”