As Ian Poulter loses his PGA Tour membership having failed to make the necessary money during his medical extension, we take a look back at the career of the passionate Englishman on the world’s biggest stage.
Poulter’s first official PGA Tour start, excluding majors and World Golf Championships, came at the Bay Hill Invitational in March 2004. There was no dream start for the then 28-year-old, though, as he missed the cut by five shots. However, now ranked 46th in the world, it seemed only a matter of time before he was competing.
His Tour membership, beginning in 2005, was earned as a result of scoring the winning points for Europe at the Ryder Cup in 2004. Poulter would make two more starts in 2004 before beginning his membership: finishing tied 61st at the MCI Heritage and missing the cut at the FUNAI Classic.
Poulter began life as a holder of a PGA Tour card with four back-to-back starts in the United States. The first two of which resulted in another missed cut at the Sony Open in Hawaii and a withdrawal from the Buick Invitational after 35 holes, although placed 148th at the point of withdrawal he was missing the cut regardless.
Progress was made in his next of the four consecutive starts, though, where he finished tied eighth, six shots off the lead, at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic for the first of his 36 career PGA Tour top 10s. He would go on to miss eight of the remaining 10 cuts at solely PGA Tour sanctioned events for the season as his struggle to acclimatise continued.
2006 saw the beginning of his successful adjustment to life on the PGA Tour as he missed only two of 15 cuts with four top 10s, including a tied second at the WGC-American Express Championship. High achievement at WGC events would become a trend throughout Poulter’s career.
Similar results to 2006 found Poulter across 2007, 2008 and 2009. A small selection of missed cuts and two sets of five top-10 finishes sandwiching one top-10 in 2008 were added to two runner-up finishes (2008 and 2009) – notably at the Open Championship and Players Championship – and a third (2007) as he began to learn how to really contend and rose to a new world ranking height of 12th.
Although he only made two top 10s across the year, 2010 brought about Poulter’s breakthrough PGA Tour win. Albeit not at a solely PGA Tour sanctioned event, Poulter won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in his first PGA Tour start of the calendar year; he cruised to victory in the final, beating fellow-Englishman Paul Casey 4&2. The win also brought him up to his career-high world ranking high of fifth.
2011 was arguably Poulter’s worst PGA Tour season as an established professional of the game. 16 starts resulted in only one top-10, at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He bounced right back in 2012, though, with his second – and only other – PGA Tour win at the WGC-HSBC Champions. The season as a whole will be looked at fondly by Pouter having made all 15 cuts with six top 25s, four top 10s, two thirds (at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and PGA Championship) and the WGC win.
2013 through 2016 saw remarkably consistent results. There were no wins, one top three per year, 11 top-10s spread across and four missed cuts per year (with the exception of three in 2013).
The downfall began in 2016, however, as Poulter made one third, one top-10 and only one top-25 finish in thirteen starts. He earned by far his lowest official money, $370,256, since gaining his full PGA Tour membership – his previous lowest was $739,926 in that poor 2011 season – and well short of the amount needed to retain his card.
However, due to four months of absence following a foot injury in 2016, Poulter was granted the chance of a 10-event medical extension to earn the money needed for continue his membership. With six events to go, Poulter needed to earn just over $200,000 which equalled roughly a single fifth place finish. His next three starts brought about finishes in the 40s and pressure mounted. It mounted further as he followed that up with a missed cut at the Puerto Rico Open and reduced his number of chances to just two.
Having found himself in a promising position on the final day at the RBC Heritage, perhaps this is where Poulter will look to blame his shortcomings. Poor putting during the final 18 holes at Harbour Town Golf Links knocked him down to an 11-way tie for 11th and hugely dented his pay-out.
Nevertheless, the high finish meant only a top-35-or-so ($30,000) was needed at the Valero Texas Open. Poulter opened with a 75 and, even with a second-round-71, was unable to recover, missed the cut at TPC San Antonio and lost his 12-year-long PGA Tour membership.
Despite being 41 years of age, Poulter is determined to ensure this is not the end of his time on the world’s biggest golf tour…
You don’t get to #5 in the world and help lift a few @RyderCupEurope 🏆’s and disappear. You come back stronger and more determined than ever
— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) April 21, 2017
…and you wouldn’t put it past him to make the dramatic comeback.