By Tony Jimenez
WATFORD, England (Reuters) - Ian Poulter, tournament host for the British Masters on his home course at Woburn in 2015, has apologized for electing to miss this year's edition.
The 40-year-old caused raised eyebrows when he decided to make his playing comeback following a four-and-a-half month injury layoff at this week's Macao Open on the Asian Tour rather than at The Grove course just outside London.
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When the British Masters returned to the European Tour schedule last season after a seven-year absence, it was announced that Poulter, Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood would share hosting privileges for the next four years.
However, in a double blow for the 2016 event, Poulter chose to make his comeback from a foot injury at the Macao Open while Olympic champion Rose decided last week to take two months off due to a back problem and a hectic recent tournament schedule.
"I'm really sorry I can't be there with you at The Grove this week. I know you are very disappointed but there's a very simple reason," the Florida-based Englishman told British Masters organizers in a video message.
"I've got a very limited amount of tournaments to play to regain my PGA Tour status (in America)...only 10 events.
"The first one is in Malaysia next week and I really wanted to be in a similar time zone so that I could play that event and be as fresh as possible," added Poulter.
"I wanted to be at the British Masters. Hosting it last year at Woburn was a huge thrill and honor for me."
Poulter, who has recorded 12 European Tour wins and been a figurehead for the Ryder Cup team in five matches as a player, was 56th in the world rankings at the end of last year but the spell of inactivity has led to him dropping down to 124th.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)