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Relief for Ian Poulter After Tour Card Reprieve

By: Golfshake Editor | Mon 01 May 2017 | Comments

Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements

You will remember that Ian Poulter lost his playing privileges on the PGA Tour when he missed the cut at the Valero Texas Open. It now turns out that the Englishman can play on Tour for the rest of the season, and all because of Brian Gay's dodgy thumb.

What? Are you sitting comfortably? Let us try to explain. Poulter missed most of last season because of an injury that cost him a place on Europe's Ryder Cup team and rejoined the fray this season on a medical exemption that ran out in Texas when he failed to make the requisite sum required to remain on tour. But it turned out that Poulter, and the PGA Tour, got their sums all wrong.

Gay is a man who knows all about injury and poor health. In 2014 he had surgery to implant an artificial disk in his neck and then in May 2015 another procedure to clean out bone spurs and arthritis in his left thumb. In January 2016 he was granted a major medical extension and given 27 starts to earn either $747,899 or 464 FedEx Cup points to reclaim his full  playing privileges.

While Poulter was enduring a miserable time in Texas, Gay tied for sixth, banking $200,725 to take his earnings on the extension to more than $917,000. He was thrilled to have his full status back and began to draw up his schedule for the rest of 2017. But then he received an email from the Tour telling him that he still needed 28 FedEx Cup points to qualify for the Players Championship. Bizarrely, the Tour’s flagship event no longer uses money as a qualifying criteria, only FedEx Cup points.

This is where things start to get very complicated. It turns out that the PGA Tour has restructured the distribution of FedEx points, giving fewer to finishes below 14th. For instance, a 20th-place finish last season was worth 51 points, but this season it brings only 45; 30th place has been devalued from 41 points to 28. Major medical extensions are not tied to a specific season; indeed, Gay had accrued his $917,000 across the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. But thanks to the Tour’s new calculations, Gay's finishes this season were worth fewer points.

“You can’t change the formula in the middle of a major medical,” Gay says. “That’s just not fair. They were essentially taking points away from me.”

Gay complained to Andy Pazder, the Tour’s chief operating officer,  who in turn approached Jay Monahan, the Tour Commissioner, who agreed  that this season’s points should be allocated using last season’s formula. Gay was subsequently told that the points he had accumulated were enough to qualify him for the Players Championship after all. Are you following this?

Then a thought struck Gay: “I just got Ian Poulter his Tour card.”

Poulter had been focused only on the money he needed. When he missed the cut in San Antonio, he believed he would have to depend on sponsor's invitations for the rest of the season, but it turned out that he had actually received more FedEx points than he, or the PGA Tour, had thought, and he was back in the game.

To say that the Englishman was pleased is something of an understatement. Gay said: “When he realised that he still had his playing rights after all, Ian tweeted, 'I freakin’ love you with a bunch of red hearts. We talked later, and he didn’t even know the FedEx points were different this season. He was happy and he was angry, because his people hadn’t known what was going on either and obviously the Tour did a poor job of explaining it, and the guy has gone through hell over this.”

Poulter has promised to buy Gay a special bottle of wine to express his appreciation. It's the least he can do.

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Tags: PGA Tour ian poulter

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