Top-seed Kaymer loses in Match Play

Top-seeded Martin Kaymer was eliminated from the World Match Play Championship by the lowest-ranked player in the field on Friday, losing by one hole to Richard Finch in the biggest surprise of the tournament so far.

The No. 9-ranked German needed to make a three-foot putt on the last to halve the match and force a playoff against the No. 218-ranked Finch, but it horseshoed out.

”Martin being the player he is, I didn’t expect that,” said Finch, who has not won on tour since his two victories in 2008. ”I felt like giving it to him, to be honest.”

Kaymer, who won the 2010 U.S. PGA Championship and was a semifinalist here last year, is struggling to recapture the form that took him to No. 1 in the rankings last spring. He joined Darren Clarke and Charl Schwartzel as recent major winners who failed to make the weekend.

Defending champion Ian Poulter looks like the man to beat after overwhelming English compatriot and friend Tom Lewis 4 and 3 to extend his match-play record on European soil to 14 contests. A second straight victory here set up a match against local favorite Alvaro Quiros on Saturday.

”I’ve driven the ball nicely and holed key putts at the right time, just as I did last year throughout the weekend,” Poulter said.

Lewis, who led the British Open as an amateur last year and once carried Poulter’s bag as a youngster, also advanced after beating John Senden of Australia earlier Friday. He will play Sergio Garcia of Spain next.

Clarke’s miserable season continued, however, after the British Open champion was beaten by two holes by Robert Rock and then thrashed 6 and 4 by another Englishman, Justin Rose, hours later.

Clarke is without a top-10 finish since his victory at Royal St. George’s last July and hasn’t made a halfway cut all season.

”It must be tough, all the expectation,” Rose said of Clarke. ”We’ve all been there. You see (losing) still hurts him.”

Schwartzel, last year’s Masters champion, also lost both his round-robin matches, with his fate sealed when he lost a playoff to Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium. Fellow South Africans Branden Grace and Jbe Kruger were also knocked out.

Six players – Poulter, Rose, Garcia, Rafael Cabrera-Bello and former U.S. Open champions Retief Goosen and Graeme McDowell – won both of their group matches at the Finca Cortesin course in southern Spain but Poulter has been the most impressive.

Bidding to become the fourth player in the event’s 47-year history to successfully defend the title, he showed no mercy to Lewis, a youngster he knows well and has tipped for superstardom following his exploits as an amateur.

Both players knew they were already into the last 16 having both beaten Senden in their first matches and Poulter acknowledged ”it was hard to get that adrenalin rush.”

However, he won four of the first five holes after the turn as Lewis started flagging during his second round in a day.

Poulter has already proved stamina isn’t a problem for him – all of his matches went down the 18th last year apart from the final against Luke Donald.

”We both wanted to win the match but as soon as it decided to start turning, to be honest he probably wants to get in and rest up for an early morning.”

Lewis and Garcia are first out on Saturday, with the last-16 winners also playing their quarterfinals later in the day.

Kaymer, who lost 3 and 2 to Rafael Cabrera-Bello in his first match, was 2 up by the 7th hole but was reeled in by Finch in a topsy-turvy affair in the last match of the day.

Finch made par on the par-5 last and Kaymer should have matched it, but turned away in horror after his effort wrapped around the edge of the cup.

Finch’s reward is a match against McDowell, who beat Kruger 4 and 3 and is attempting to recreate his match-play heroics from the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, where he holed the winning putt.

”It was a bit of a dead rubber – the real fun starts tomorrow against Richard,” McDowell said.

After winning his first match with borrowed clubs, a putter bought from the pro shop and Senden’s backup driver, American player Brandt Snedeker was reunited with his own set for his head-to-head with Branden Grace.

It didn’t help Snedeker, who lost 4 and 3, but he emerged from a three-way playoff with Grace and Thomas Bjorn to set up a last-16 match with Camilo Villegas.

Bjorn beat Grace on the next playoff hole and will take on Paul Lawrie next.