LUKE Donald suffered one of the biggest defeats of his career yesterday as the giant-killing continued at the Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson.
Made favourite for the title after the first-round defeats of world top two Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, third seed and 2011 winner Donald was crushed 7&6 by unheralded Scott Piercy.
The American, who has made it to 37th in the world with hardly anybody noticing, sank his approach to the fifth for an eagle two and turned in a marvellous six under par 30.
Ian Poulter, who lifted the trophy three years ago, was almost as impressive as he made it through to the last 16 with a 3&1 victory over another of the home contingent in Bo Van Pelt, but fifth-seed Justin Rose was another to bow out. He was beaten 3&2 by Ryder Cup team-mate Nicolas Colsaerts.
Irish duo Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry looks set for a third round clash, meanwhile. Lowry – who would not have played if Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker had taken up their places – followed up his notable scalping of world No 1 McIlroy by thumping Carl Pettersson 6&5, while McDowell, having knocked out Padraig Harrington, was one up on another Swede, Alex Noren, with six to play.
A delighted Lowry said: “I scraped the win against Rory and my iron play was a lot better. I put pressure on him the whole game. I wish every week was match play.”
Donald, who returned from a long winter break only last week, had beaten German Marcel Siem with two closing birdies, but gave Piercy just the encouragement he perhaps needed by setting off again with a double bogey six.
The English star could never have expected to be six down by the so-called halfway point, though, and yet another birdie by Piercy on the short 12th finished things off.
Debutant Piercy said: “I have a lot of respect for Luke, but I think he was off his game a little bit.”
Poulter, unbeaten hero ofEurope’s triumph in Chicago last September and with match play crowns to his name on both sides of the Atlantic, has shown no ill-effects of taking six weeks off coming into the tournament.
“It feels pretty good,” he said. “It was always a little risky taking that amount of time off, but it’s working out pretty well. I worked hard at home, put some new irons in the bag and I couldn’t be any fresher or fitter than I am right now. I didn’t make any silly mistakes and I guess making seven birdies you are going to be tough to beat.”
Having also eliminated Scot Stephen Gallacher, he next faces South African Tim Clark, who has so far defeated Adam Scott and Thorbjorn Olesen without having to play the final hole.
A Colsaerts victory was not that big a surprise in truth.
The Belgian won the Volvo World Match Play in Spain last year, had eight birdies and an eagle in his first Ryder Cup game and began this week with a crushing 5&4 win over American Bill Haas.
Rose actually won the first hole, but he could not match his big-hitting opponent’s birdie on the long second and by the seventh was already three down. A birdie at the ninth and eagle on the 11th – both with 14-foot putts – hinted at a comeback, but the Englishman plugged his ball in a bunker on the next and Colsaerts hit his approach to two feet at the 14th.
The 15th was halved in birdie threes – Colsaerts drove the green on the par four – and it ended on the following green when Rose three-putted. It is American Ryder Cup player Matt Kuchar next for Colsaerts.
With South African Louis Oosthuizen losing to American Robert Garrigus the tournament had already lost its top seven seeds, but defending champion Hunter Mahan was still alive and will next play 2011 runner-up Martin Kaymer.
Masters champion Bubba Watson is the highest-ranked player left in. Seeded eighth, he got the better of Ryder Cup team-mate Jim Furyk but had to go to the fourth extra hole to do it.