After already making the trek from Texas to Hong Kong, Rich Beem agreed to pull out of the European Tour’s Hong Kong Open and give his spot in the field to Ian Poulter. You see, Poulter was in a bit of a conundrum. In the latest official world golf rankings, the Englishman dropped out of the top 50 to 51st, making him ineligible for the WGC-HSBC Champions in two weeks. Poulter had planned on playing in Shanghai to fulfill his mandatory requirement of 13 starts on the European Tour to remain a member — and more important, keep him qualified for the 2016 Ryder Cup.
The tournament deadline had come and gone two weeks prior, so the only way Poulter could get into the event was through a sponsor’s exemption, which had all been doled out already. Well, the European Tour couldn’t have Poulter ineligible for next year’s Ryder Cup, so officials approached Beem, the American who won the 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine (where the 2016 Ryder Cup will be contested), to explain to him the situation and asked him if he would step aside for Poulter. <<awkward>>
Beem was gracious enough to give up his spot in the tournament.
Thanks to @beemerpga for giving up his invitation to allow me to play in Hong Kong. Where would you like me to take you for dinner.
— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) October 20, 2015
I think Poulter owes Beem more than just dinner. Meanwhile, Poulter had to scramble at the last minute to obtain a visa for his passport, which arrived less than two hours before his plane took off.
That’s what you call cutting it fine, passports arrived 7.15am, taking off at 9am to make flight to Hong Kong. pic.twitter.com/JmeVITEvLn
— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) October 20, 2015
Now I can’t help but wonder if there was some sort of deal that was struck (like a reverse appearance fee?). However, Beem told the AP that he was just doing the right thing.
“I’m not looking to gain anything from this,” Beem told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “I looked at it in the simplest terms. There’s a guy who loses his tour membership if I don’t step away. Is it anymore awkward because it’s Ian Poulter? I don’t know and I don’t care. It was the right thing to do.”
“I want to play in the worst way,” Beem said. “But there were no other options, and I’m not going to keep a guy from losing all his status and not be eligible for the Ryder Cup. So I stepped aside. I didn’t think twice about it or ask for huge demands.”
I would’ve at least asked for my expenses to be covered, not to mention perhaps an undisclosed sum of money — $50,000 sounds fair — but apparently Beem is a better person than most of us.
Poulter arrived in Hong Kong on Wednesday evening after a 15-hour flight from New York. He is reportedly planning on using a local caddie because his longtime regular looper Terry Mundy is on vacation.
“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 in a statement released by the European Tour.
“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 was surprised to have dropped nine spots in the world rankings in such a short time span.
“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.”
There were a few scenarios that conspired against Poulter to drop out of the top 50, including Andy Sullivan and Emiliano Grillo winning the Portugal Masters and the Frys.com Open, respectively, last Sunday.
Poulter, who won the Hong Kong Open in 2010, is a bit unprepared for the event, to say the least.
“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.”
Well, it doesn’t really matter how he plays at the end of the day — what’s important is that he gets that 13th start so he can remain a European Tour member, and thus, eligible for the Ryder Cup.