Thursday 20 October 2016

Rose and Poulter face a tough task to reach last 16

William S Callahan

Published 30/04/2015 | 02:30

Jordan Spieth hits out of a bunker at the second hole in San Francisco
Jordan Spieth hits out of a bunker at the second hole in San Francisco

European Ryder Cup stars Justin Rose and Ian Poulter were shock first-round losers on the opening day of the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco last night.

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Rose, the top European player in the 2014 victory over the USA at Gleneagles, came to the tournament on a high after victory in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Sunday.

The Englishman had hoped that the adrenaline would still be flowing as he faced his first Group 6 match against Australian's Marc Leishman.

Instead, Leishman claimed the first big-name scalp of the tournament, defeating Rose 3&2.

Poulter, a huge fan of match play, and the 2010 winner of this tournament, has proudly carried the banner of Europe into Ryder Cups. He roared like a lion beforehand in terms of his robust self-belief, but limped out of his Ryder Cup re-run with Webb Simpson, losing 3&2.

Former US Open champion Simpson was justifiably pleased to overcome 'Mr Match Play.'

"It's funny. I drew him in the last two Ryder Cups I played. What a great match play player he is. He's always tough, and even being three and four up, I knew I couldn't let up. Happy to win, for sure," said Simpson.

On the day, Poulter's putter was too cool for his liking, so he, like Rose, can be relieved that the new format allows him two more Group 11 matches to try and survive one of the 'Groups of Death' in this event.

The appropriateness of that description was underlined by the other match in that section - Jimmy Walker v Gary Woodland - being the first contest of the day to reach the 19th hole before Woodland finally won out.

In the only other match involving Ryder Cup 2014 opponents, Hunter Mahan of the USA trounced Europe's Stephen Gallacher 7&6.

Holder Jason Day of Australian, another man with a fine match play record, got a 4&3 drubbing from the 50th seed, Charley Hoffman.


Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy revealed he holds no grudges against Billy Horschel as the two prepare to play each other tomorrow in their last Group One match.

Horschel seriously annoyed McIlroy with his hyper and brash attitude in the 2007 Walker Cup at Royal County Down.

"Fortunately Billy has mellowed considerably since then.

"We didn't kiss and make up or anything, but we've got a much better relationship now than we did after that Walker Cup," said McIlroy.

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