Play finally underway at World Match Play Championship as Poulter secures passage
IAN POULTER, winner in 2010, became the first European through to the second round of the Accenture Match Play Championship following another long weather delay in the wintry Arizona desert today.
After an incredible four inches of snow, plus a severe overnight frost, no play was possible until 1pm, but Poulter then saw off Scotland's Stephen Gallacher 2&1 to set up a last-32 clash with American Bo Van Pelt.
"I'm going to hit some balls," the Ryder Cup ace said. "It's been stop-start and I don't feel I have done enough work."
Gallacher, three down with six to play when they resumed, won the 14th and made a 15-foot birdie putt at the next.
But Poulter, playing his first tournament since the first week of January, had pitched to three feet there, made it for a half, then played a superb bunker recovery on the short 16th to maintain his advantage.
Winner of the Dubai Desert Classic on his last start three weeks ago, Gallacher had a long-range chance to extend the game at the 17th, but missed.
Bo Van Pelt was the first player to register a victory, beating Australian John Senden 6&5, but Sergio Garcia had to go to the second extra hole before he got the better of Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee.
Garcia could have finished it with one shot today, but his 12-foot birdie attempt on the 16th raced six feet past and he missed the return to be only one up.
Jaidee then birdied the 18th from four feet and lipped out from nine feet when they went into sudden death, but Spain's 12th seed was on in two at the par five next and two putts for birdie proved good enough to give him a duel with American Ryder Cup player Matt Kuchar.
Less than four hours' play had been possible on the opening day and 20 of the 64 players, including top seeds Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Luke Donald, did not even make it on to the Dove Mountain course near Tucson before the first snowstorm arrived.
With more sub-zero temperatures predicted for the coming nights, there now appears a real possibility the event will have to be extended to Monday for the first time in its 15-year history.
Lee Westwood stood three up on Spaniard Rafael Cabrera Bello at the turn, winning the long eighth with a two-putt birdie, but lost the 10th hole.
Having been four up after five, fifth seed Justin Rose was pulled back to all square with six to play by South Korean KJ Choi while fellow Englishman Chris Wood trailed Masters champion Bubba Watson by two after 10 and Welshman Jamie Donaldson was three down to Dane Thorbjorn Olesen at the same stage.
In the first of the two all-Irish clashes - McIlroy versus Shane Lowry was still to come - Graeme McDowell led Padraig Harrington by one after five.