Ian Poulter broke one of the PGA Tour’s golden rules, but he served his punishment in one of the coolest and most imaginative ways possible.
It all started when Poulter won the Houston Open in April. That led to improved status on Tour and spots in majors, which in turn changed his scheduling. But the Tour has a policy that says players who don’t compete in 25 events must enter a tournament they haven’t played in the last four years. There are other exemptions to this rule but they didn’t apply to Poulter, who violated this obligation following his post-victory scheduling shake-up.
Per Tour guidelines, the violation would call for a fine and/or suspension, although Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has final say and none of these decisions are released publicly. In essence, it creates flexibility when these decisions are handed out.
According to the Associated Press’s Doug Ferguson, Poulter knew this was coming, so he sought out Tour officials after the Masters.
“I told them, ‘How do you want to go about it?’ I’m going to be the first person [to violate the rule], and it’s going to be sensitive,” Poulter told Ferguson. “I want to give something back so I can fulfill an obligation.”
Poulter said he would play the Sentry Tournament of Champions (he finished 18th out of 33 on Sunday) as well as this week’s Sony Open. He also offered an event with guests. Poulter skipped the 2018 Wyndham Championship so he wouldn’t play nine straight weeks leading up to the Ryder Cup, even though playing it would have fulfilled his obligation. So he told Wyndham to pick eight guests to send to his home in Orlando, Fla., and they played a round with Poulter at his home club. They also ate lunch together and toured Poulter’s guest house that boasts his huge collection of Ferraris, Ryder Cup memorabilia, 60 tour bags with clubs, yardage books and more.
“I would say it was beyond what we would consider an acceptable make-good,” Andy Pazder, the tour’s chief officer of tournaments and competitions, told Ferguson. “To do what he did … was just terrific.”
If Poulter’s predicament sounds familiar, it’s because Jordan Spieth also violated a Tour rule when he failed to play in 25 events last season without adding a new tournament. Although it’s unknown what Spieth’s “punishment” was, he did enter both the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and the Mayakoba Golf Classic for the first time in the fall.