Happy returns: Matchplay champ Matt Kuchar back in world top 10 with Poulter
Published 25/02/2013 | 09:36
MATT KUCHAR and Ian Poulter are both back in the world's top 10 today, but it is the American who is really celebrating.
The 34-year-old beat holder Hunter Mahan in Tucson last night to become Accenture Match Play champion and collect a first prize of almost £965,000.
Poulter, winner in 2010, had to settle for fourth place after losing first to Mahan in the semi-finals and then to Australian Jason Day in the third place play-off.
Kuchar adds the title to the Players Championship he won last June and will doubtless see his odds shorten for the US Masters in April.
But he said: "My sights are not yet set on Augusta. Every week is a great opportunity and the next tournament is the most important to me."
For both him and Poulter that is next week's Cadillac Championship in Miami, the second of this season's world championships and the one lifted by Justin Rose 12 months ago.
Poulter, trying to make it back-to-back world crowns after his triumph at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai last November, went down 4&3 to Mahan.
An inspired 20-yard chip-in from over the short 12th proved the decisive moment.
"It's a shame really and disappointing," Poulter said. "Hunter played very solid and chipped unbelievably well."
The Englishman had hopes of pulling back to only one down when he was the one to find the green on the 12th, but instead he fell three behind.
"It just looked perfect as soon as I hit it and it trickled in," said Mahan, whose duffed chip in the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor allowed Graeme McDowell to clinch the match for Europe.
Poulter added: "It was a huge turnaround and from that point there was no let-up."
Day looked less interested in the consolation game than Poulter when he fired wildly into the desert on three of the first four holes, but he came back to lead by three with three to play.
Poulter won the 16th and 17th, but Day's up and down from sand on the last settled it. He earned £395,000 to Poulter's £321,000.
As for the final, Kuchar turned four up, was pulled back to only one ahead, but got much the better lie when both drove into a fairway bunker down the 17th and closed the match out.
It was sweet revenge for losing 6&5 to his 2010 Ryder Cup teammate in last year's quarter-finals.
Kuchar said: "What an incredible feeling to be standing here after six matches. When these dreams come true it's a special feeling.
"I was trying to do the same that Hunter did to me, but he played some great golf coming in and has a lot to be proud of."