After scrambling for paperwork and making a mad dash for the airport, Ian Poulter has finally landed at the UBS Hong Kong Open.
The Englishman awoke Monday to realize that his European Tour membership - and Ryder Cup eligibility - were unexpectedly in jeopardy because of a drop in the Official World Golf Ranking. Needing to add a start on short notice, he grabbed a last-minute sponsor invite when Rich Beem agreed to return his spot in the field after already flying to Hong Kong.
"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," Poulter said Wednesday. "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 has made only nine European Tour starts this season, but he expected to play 13 events - the minimum for membership - by playing an upcoming stretch that included the WGC-HSBC Champions. But when the OWGR cutoff fell on Monday, Poulter dropped to No. 51 when the top 50 in the rankings qualify for the event in China.
Poulter is a self-professed follower of the world ranking permutations, but he was caught off-guard by a two-week window that saw him drop from No. 42 to No. 51, ending his nine-year streak of remaining inside the top 50.
"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," said Poulter, who began the year ranked 27th. "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 (those) things are good."
Poulter also clarified the scramble that arose from his passport and visa paperwork. Anticipating starts next month at the WGC-HSBC and BMW Masters, Poulter had already sent both of his passports out to be processed for Chinese visas. They had not yet returned when he realized he was going to need them for his unexpected trip to Hong Kong, but as they were already being processed there was nothing to expedite.
Thankfully for Poulter, the passports arrived back at his Florida home at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, allowing him to make his 9 a.m. flight to New York and subsequent connection to Hong Kong.
"It was a shock to the system to realize that I wasn't going to make my numbers, and then you throw the passports situation into the mix," he said. "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."
Poulter arrived in Hong Kong at 7 p.m. local time Wednesday evening, and he will head to the first tee at 12 p.m. Thursday without the benefit of a practice round.
"It's not been great preparation. I don't have a caddie, I don't have a yardage book," he said. "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 up and see tomorrow."