Sunday 25 February 2018

Ian Poulter urges European Tour to stick to its membership rules

Ian Poulter believes membership rules are vital on the European Tour
Ian Poulter believes membership rules are vital on the European Tour

Ian Poulter believes the European Tour must maintain its membership criteria, even though they almost cost him a place in next year's Ryder Cup.

Poulter dropped out of the world's top 50 on October 19 and was therefore ineligible for his planned appearance in the upcoming WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai, meaning he would be unable to play the 13 events required for European Tour membership.

Only members can qualify for Europe's Ryder Cup team and that meant Poulter was forced into a frantic journey from Orlando, via New York, to compete in last week's UBS Hong Kong Open, but only after former US PGA champion Rich Beem generously agreed to give up his tournament invite.

Discussions between top players and European Tour officials are ongoing and the feeling is that the required number of events may be reduced from 13 to 11, but Poulter believes the Tour should not be expected to "roll over".

"It's a tour that's been very proud to hold the Ryder Cup trophy for so many years and produce great world-class European players," Poulter told a pre-tournament press conference ahead of the Turkish Airlines Open, which gets under way on Thursday.

"You can't expect the European Tour to roll over and allow all their guys to disappear. It really is the one thing that's kept the European Tour together, the Ryder Cup."

Poulter, who remained 51st in the world rankings after finishing tied for 29th in Hong Kong, added: " It's an awkward situation and being outside of the top 50 makes it very difficult.

" I know there have been discussions of how they can make things work better for everybody and those are going to continue. I am not going to sit here and turn around and say they need to be slashed to eight, nine or 10.

"Rules have had to be put in place to protect the Tour and it's difficult. You have guys that have been very committed to the Tour for a very long period of time, that are outside the top 50 at the minute (Jamie Donaldson is 56th, Luke Donald 70th and Graeme McDowell 80th). You'd expect them to get back inside the top 50, but if they don't then it's going to be very tough on those guys.

"They are definitely looking into it and I'm sure they will make the right decision. (European Tour chief executive) Keith Pelley has his finger on the pulse. He's definitely a decision-maker, he's someone that likes to listen to the players and I think he's going to do a good job because of that.

" It's not corporate America where they can have such huge tax write-offs, the TV deal is not even comparable, so we need sponsors on the European Tour to make it work. That's the one thing that Keith is going to have to do a good job on, finding new ways to bring in tournaments, new sponsors, to raise the prize fund, to make sure the big guys want to play as many tournaments as they possibly can and look after the Tour."

Poulter insists he will make next year's Ryder Cup team as Europe look to claim a ninth win from the last 11 contests, but would not be surprised to see the new English generation of Danny Willett, Andy Sullivan and Matt Fitzpatrick alongside him at Hazeltine.

Sullivan is the only player to have won three times on the European Tour this season, while Willett is second behind Rory McIlroy in the Race to Dubai and British Masters winner Fitzpatrick is 11th and battling Anirban Lahiri to be named rookie of the year.

" It would be great," said Willett, whose wife Nicole is due to give birth to their first child on April 10 next year, the final day of the Masters.

"It's nice to win tournaments and to play certain events, but an Order of Merit means you've played great over a 12-month period, not just a one-off."

Press Association

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