Poulter, Mahan, Kuchar, Day into semis of Match Play tournament
By Doug Ferguson ,APMARANA, Arizona -- The biggest names may be gone from the Match Play Championship but Ian Poulter and Hunter Mahan — the best in match play over the last few years — are still alive.
February 25, 2013, 12:05 am TWN
Poulter added to his reputation as a tough match play customer Saturday when he beat Steve Stricker with one big putt after another, raising his record in this fickle format to 19-3-2 over the past four years.
Mahan outlasted U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson in 18 holes, leaving him two wins away from joining Tiger Woods as the only repeat winners of this World Golf Championship. Mahan hasn't lost a match in two years, and even more impressive than his 11 straight wins is that he has gone 151 holes at Dove Mountain without trailing.
Poulter and Mahan meet Sunday morning in the semifinals.
Matt Kuchar had no trouble against Robert Garrigus, building a 4-up lead through 10 holes and hanging on for a 3-and-2 win to reach the quarterfinals for the third straight year. He faces Jason Day of Australia, who won a tight match against Graeme McDowell in 18 holes.
Along with a perfect singles record in the Ryder Cup, Poulter has won the WGC version of the Match Play Championship and the World Match Play Championship in Spain in 2011. He wasn't aware of his record since 2010, nor did he sound terribly surprised.
“I'm pretty proud of it,” he said. “Does it surprise me? I love match play.”
That much is becoming abundantly clear. After he pulled away from Tim Clark of South Africa in the third round Saturday morning, he faced his toughest challenge yet in Stricker, who started his 46th birthday celebration by making eight birdies in a brilliantly played match against Scott Piercy in the third round.
Stricker holed a 30-foot putt on the final hole for the win, and then ran into someone who putted even better.
The match effectively turned on the third hole. After they traded birdies, Stricker stuffed his tee shot into 6 feet, while Poulter pulled his shot some 40 feet away above the ridge. Poulter wound up making the putt, and all Stricker could do was laugh. He missed his short birdie, and the momentum shifted for good.
Describing the big moment, it wasn't clear if Poulter was talking about his putt or driving through a roundabout.
“It was 40 feet, left-to-right, right-to-left, right-to-left again, hopefully slowing down on the ridge, taking a left-hand turn, down the slope and then chucking a little left to right at the end to drop it,” Poulter said. “It was really nice.”
Stricker didn't win another hole until he was 3 down at the turn, and while he made birdie on the 10th to pick up a little momentum, he gave it right back with a tee shot into the desert on the par-5 11th, leading to a bogey. Poulter won the next with a 20-foot birdie putt, and from there it was a matter of time.
Even the final hole showed Poulter's putting prowess.