Ian Poulter’s signature 2018 Houston Open victory wasn’t enough to draw him away from the European Tour, nor is the move to fall’s more appealing weather attracting any top players to the new-look Houston Open.
Will Gray on Poulter’s decision:
But Poulter's allegiance to Europe also plays a role in his decision. The Italian Open is a lucrative Rolex Series event, bringing with it an increased purse ($7 million versus the $7.5 million up for grabs in Houston) and offering qualification points toward making the 2020 Ryder Cup team. This event was also the site of Poulter's first career Euro Tour win back in 2000, and he also won it in 2002 - the last time that Olgiata Golf Club, this year's venue, hosted the event.
As for the field, headliners put into Featured Groups includes no World Top 30 players, yet its winner earns 500 FedExCup points and a likely invitation to the Masters. (OWGR strength of field numbers have not been posted).
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A “weak” 24 level event puts the Houston event in the John Deere Classic, Sanderson Farms, opposite field camp and highlights how, even with a huge golf supporter and friend of the game Jim Crane attempting to maintain a PGA Tour presence in America’s fourth largest (golf loving) city accessible from anywhere in the United States within three hours.
Furthermore, there may be too much “content” when players outside the world top 2000 are getting in on some sort of Tour status. Among the tournament alternates are retirees and volunteer assistant golf coaches.
The tournament director is not hiding his frustration with the field quality, reports Golf.com’s Art Stricklin.
“I’ve been doing this for 13 months and I know I’ve looked a lot of players in the eye who said they were coming and they are not here,” tournament director Colby Callaway told GOLF.com. “So, I’m a little surprised, but it is what it is.”
Meanwhile the European Tour’s Italian Open field also includes Justin Rose, Paul Casey, Francesco Molinari and the Champion Golfer of the Year, Shane Lowry.