The Official World Golf Ranking nearly knocked one of the best match-play competitors out of next year's Ryder Cup.
Ian Poulter had a starring role in European Ryder Cup victories in both 2012 and 2014, and he hasn't missed the biennial competition since 2006. But as a member of both the PGA Tour and European Tour, Poulter is one of several golfers who flirt with the minimum number of events each circuit requires for membership.
The European Tour requires 13 starts for members; Poulter has made only nine such starts so far this year. As the U.K.'s Telegraph reports, his plan to reach 13 starts included a trip next month to the WGC-HSBC Champions in China, an event he won in 2012.
But the main qualifier for that elite field is to be ranked inside the top 50 on Oct. 19. Thanks in part to surprise victories from Andy Sullivan and Emiliano Grillo, Poulter - who started the year ranked 27th - fell to No. 51 this week and out of a spot in China. It marked the first time Poulter had been ranked outside the OWGR top 50 since September 2006.
With his eligibility for next year's Ryder Cup dependent on him maintaining European Tour membership - just ask Paul Casey about that bylaw - Poulter was left to scramble for a Plan B. That came in the form of this week's UBS Hong Kong Open, where he received a late spot. In fact, Poulter's Ryder Cup hopes are alive thanks in large part to an American: Rich Beem.
Beem won the 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine, site of next year's matches. The current Sky Sports commentator had plans to play in Hong Kong on a sponsor invite, but he gave up his spot to accommodate Poulter:
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
Poulter's scramble wasn't over, though, as he also needed to secure a last-minute visa to fly from his home in Florida to Hong Kong. He tweeted that he received his passport, with visa, less than two hours before his flight was scheduled to take 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
Poulter is scheduled to arrive late Wednesday, and he will begin Thursday's opening round without the benefit of a practice round. But once he tees off, European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke will likely breathe a sigh of relief.