Saturday 17 March 2018

Poulter presses his case

Ian Poulter, pictured, set up a clash with Hunter Mahan in the semi-finals
Ian Poulter, pictured, set up a clash with Hunter Mahan in the 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, the 37-year-old Englishman once again proved his match play prowess on a busy two-round day in Arizona. Having stormed to a 5&3 win over Tim Clark in the last 16, the 2010 winner reached the last four with a 3&2 over Steve Stricker.

He faces reigning champion Hunter Mahan in a mouth-watering contest, but Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell will not be joining him as Jason Day beat him 1-up in a lower-quality game. Day's semi-final opponent is Matt Kuchar, who was first to book his place with a 3&2 victory over Robert Garrigus.

It was Poulter who caught the eye, though, 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 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 told Sky Sports 3. "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."

McDowell paid the price for some ragged play as he was knocked out one-up by Australian Day. McDowell had earlier come through against Ireland's Shane Lowry - the same man who made waves when he dumped McDowell's compatriot and world number one Rory McIlroy in the first round.

A player in better touch than Day would have put him away earlier but, as it was, he took the lead for the first time at hole 11. McDowell got back on terms at 14, lost the next hole and then rallied again at 16. A bogey-five at 17 was the final nail in his coffin, a missed 10-footer from the sleeve of the green representing his last chance.

"My head is in a well right now,"' McDowell told Sky Sports 3. "It's amazing how much pressure there actually is. Every round feels like the Sunday at a tournament when you're in contention and I've played four now. Physically and mentally I'm grinding it out there."

Kuchar, who ousted Nicolas Colsaerts 4&3 in his first match, ensured he would see action on the deciding day with a 3&2 success over Garrigus. Kuchar took the lead at the first hole and did not surrender it. Reigning champion Mahan was the last player to confirm his semi-final place. He edged a low-key encounter with Webb Simpson with a 1-up win.

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