'Freakish' weather can't stop Poulter
Published 22/02/2013 | 04:00
At last the sun shone again in the desert for Ian Poulter. After a 26-hour snow delay and two Accenture World Match Play Championships without a win for the Englishman, he progressed to the second round in typically belligerent style.
A couple of first-round exits followed Poulter's 2010 victory here at Dove Mountain; hardly a record befitting his reputation as a specialist in the head-to-head format. But Scotland's Stephen Gallacher could not emulate Stewart Cink and the Korean Sang-Moon Bae, Poulter's respective conquerors of 2011 and 2012.
Poulter was three-up with six remaining when play resumed at 1.0 and took 58 minutes to close it out 2&1. In this time the world No 11 gave the American galleries a painful reminder of the short-game which led the fightback at Medinah last year.
"I was pleased with the way I holed out," Poulter said. "I didn't want another early exit, but knew it would be tough against Stephen. It would have been easy to lose concentration because of the delays and the long wait before we could resume. But the adrenaline is good for me; it's a buzz we only usually get when we are in contention on a Sunday."
Poulter dismissed the snow as "a freak of nature" but did have one gripe with the officials.
"They told us we had to be here for 8.30am when there was five inches on the floor with the temperature in the 30s," he said.
"It wasn't rocket science and it meant us hanging around for five hours or so."
When the horn eventually signalled the restart, Gallacher had an immediate opportunity to reduce the overnight deficit, but his 15-foot putt dribbled wide. Up stepped Poulter to try halve the hole with a 10-footer.
He duly rolled in, proving once again that he can turn it on at will.
Sometimes Poulter's short-game can't rescue him, however. On the 14th, he hacked it up the rough before conceding the hole with a double bogey. Poulter bounced back on the next spinning in his second to four-feet.
But Gallacher bravely holed from 20 feet and on the par-three 16th had hopes of cutting the gap to one when Poulter found the greenside bunker.
This is where Poulter excels, splashing it out to a few inches. All it took then was to par the 17th and a second-round date with Bo Van Pelt was his. Poulter quite enjoys playing Americans.
The action was as dramatic as soon as it started. Sergio Garcia went to bed knowing that a 10-foot birdie putt on the 16th would give him a 3&2 win over Thongchai Jaidee. The Spaniard hit it six feet past and then missed the putt back for a halve. When the Thai struck a sumptuous approach to four feet on the 18th, Garcia was taken to sudden death.
It seemed all over for Garcia when Jaidee stood over an eight-footer for the win on the first extra hole. But it lipped out and suddenly it was the Asian feeling aggrieved.
That's match play for you – the momentum can U-turn in a single moment. Garcia reached the par-five second in two and this time made no error over his three-footer for the win. Garcia giggled with relief. "I was fortunate," he said.
Garcia's reward was a match with Matt Kuchar, who accounted for Japan's Hiroyuki Fujita 3&2.
Also through is the defending champion Hunter Mahan, who beat Italy's Matteo Manassero 5&4.
In the early action, some poor putting saw Padraig Harrington slip two behind Graeme McDowell after seven holes. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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