Ian Poulter powers into Tucson semi-finals
Ian Poulter continued his irresistible form as he led the charge into the semi-finals of Accenture World Match Play in Tucson.
Five months on from his superb Ryder Cup showing and three months since he claimed the HSBC Champions competition in China, the 37-year-old Englishman once again proved his match play prowess on a two-round day in Arizona.
Having stormed to a 5&3 win over Tim Clark in the last 16, Poulter secured a spot in the last four of a competition he won three years ago with a 3&2 win over Steve Stricker.
Poulter was in fine form, making five birdies and an eagle at the par-five eighth to leave Stricker little chance on what proved to be a disappointing 46th birthday.
Poulter himself made no secret of his confidence going into today’s championship day.
“There’s lots of world ranking points to play for and a nice trophy sitting over there that I’d quite like to take back home,” he said.
“The short game is on. I feel really confident round this golf course with a lob wedge in my hand. I’ve holed the right putts at the right times. I’ve made a couple of mistakes only and it’s looking good right now.
“I always look forward to match play.”
In the earlier quarter-final Matt Kuchar beat fellow American Robert Garrigus 3&2 to become the first player to reach the semi-finals.
After going two holes up early on, Kuchar never trailed in the quarter-final encounter at Dove Mountain and sealed victory with a two-putt par at the short 16th.
“I’m going to keep plugging away, wear guys out,” Kuchar said at the side of the green after recording five birdies and three bogeys.
A four-times winner on the PGA Tour who has reached the last eight in this tournament three years in a row, Kuchar will next face either Australian Jason Day or Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell. Day was one up after 16 holes of their quarter-final. In the other match Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson were all square after 15.
After the first day’s play at the event on Wednesday was abandoned due to snow, the players took to the course for a two-tee start on a sun-splashed afternoon in Arizona’s high desert to complete the last- 16 ties and immediately begin the quarter-finals
Mahan wasted little time in beating Germany’s Martin Kaymer 5&4, while Simpson defeated Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano two up.
Poulter advanced with a 5&3 victory over South African Clark. Poulter started on the back nine and moved three up by the turn despite managing just one birdie. Pars at the 16th, 17th and 18th were sufficient for Poulter to take charge as Clark delivered a hat-trick of bogeys.
A par at the third had Poulter further in command while a birdie at the sixth – the first time in the round that the 37-year-old was required to go under par to win a hole – saw him to a routine win.
McDowell put and end to Shane Lowry’s giant-killing run, beating him 3&2. Lowry created a stir on Friday as the 64th seed dispatched world No.1 Rory McIlroy but he had no answer as he came up against another Northern Irishman, with McDowell making four birdies to reach the turn four up.
McDowell made no further gains over the back nine, and even saw Lowry close the gap by one when he bogeyed the 15th, but it was all over on the next as both men hit pars.
Garrigus earlier became the first player to book his place in the quarter-finals after defeating Fredrik Jacobson 3&1.
American Garrigus, 35, is making his first appearance at the event in Arizona and kept himself on course for an unlikely triumph as he comfortably saw off the Swede.
Garrigus won four holes to Jacobson’s one over the front nine to build up a commanding advantage, but the Swede roared back after the turn to pull level on the back of birdies at the 11th, 12th and 13th.
Garrigus regrouped, however, a birdie at the 14th followed up by an eagle on the 15th as he wrapped up his win with a hole to spare.
Day stunned Masters champion Bubba Watson 4&3 with an impressive five-birdie display.
Veteran Stricker, match play champion in 2001, rolled in a 31-foot downhill birdie putt at the par-four ninth, the 18th hole in a tight contest, to edge past fellow American Scott Piercy one up. Stricker and Piercy totalled 15 birdies between them. Kuchar beat long-hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts 4&3.