Poulter routs Garcia to reach Match Play final
Ian Poulter of England equaled the shortest match of the
tournament to reach the final of the Match Play Championship. He
won’t know who he plays until Sunday because the longest match
Englishman Paul Casey and Camilo Villegas, neither of whom had
gone the distance all week at Dove Mountain, exchanged a series of
great shots and vital putts through 23 holes Saturday until
twilight in the high desert made it too difficult to continue.
They were to return first thing in the morning to see who gets
to face Poulter and a chance at the $1.4 million prize.
The final stroke of a long day belonged to Villegas, a
28-year-old Colombian, who had a 3-foot par putt on the 14th hole
to win the match. He pushed it badly to the right, giving Casey an
“I should have made that putt,” Villegas said.
On the previous hole, Villegas hit a remarkable bunker shot from
50 yards that stopped 2 feet from the hole for a conceded birdie,
only for Casey to knocked in a 6-foot birdie to extend the
Villegas also escaped trouble on the par-5 11th when he blasted
out of a desert bush, hammered a fairway metal onto the green and
halved the hole with a par.
“If I had to get up early, I wanted to be in the final. I
didn’t want to be continuing a semifinal,” said Casey, who reached
the championship match last year only to lose to Australian Geoff
Ogilvy. “One of us has to be in the final. And both of us want to
Some three hours earlier, Poulter closed out Spaniard Sergio
Garcia on the 12th hole, 7 and 6.
Poulter was in his room at the Ritz-Carlton, waiting to find out
his opponent before taking a hot bath. The match was so long that
he wound up taking the bath and then getting a massage. He posted
on Twitter, “laying on the massage table having some treatment
getting ready for tomorrow, cant believe they are still out
Both players were exhausted, especially having endured
quarterfinal matches Saturday morning, then coping with a few hours
of wretched conditions – cold, wind and rain that briefly halted
It was only the second time in the 12-year history of this
tournament that a semifinal match went into overtime. The other
time was in 2004, when Davis Love III defeated Darren Clarke.
Casey is trying to give this World Golf Championship its first
Earlier in the day, Casey built an early lead and defeated
British Open champion Stewart Cink, 5 and 4. It was the fourth time
in as many matches that Casey had closed out his opponent by that
Cink’s loss meant no Americans reached the semifinals for the
first time in tournament history.
The morning chill turned worse as gray clouds moved in, and rain
began falling as the quarterfinals were ending. The rain came down
so hard that play was halted for 10 minutes early in the semifinal
The golf was as miserable as the weather.
Garcia took five shots to reach the first green before conceding
the hole. Casey topped a tee shot so badly on the 209-yard third
hole that it traveled barely 100 yards and didn’t even reach the
“It was just nice that rain did back off so we could actually
play some sensible golf,” Poulter said. “It certainly wasn’t
enjoyable. The golf would have been terrible to watch.”
Poulter had a blast when the weather improved, winning four
straight holes to build a big lead, then effectively closing out
the match with four straight birdies.
Poulter won seven holes in an eight-hole stretch, but it was the
one he lost – to a par by Garcia – that caused some
Garcia was 75 feet away for birdie on No. 7, while Poulter went
over the green and into the desert, his ball stuck behind a bush.
He asked for relief from a television tower and was denied. Poulter
protested that he was capable of hitting through the bush and over
the tower, a shot he would only consider in match play.
Calling in the chief referee, he won his appeal. But when he
realized that his free drop would be in a thicker bush, he opted
not to take relief, then played away from the tower. Poulter made
bogey, forcing Garcia to nervously knock in a 6-footer for par.
After the match, Garcia was asked if he felt Poulter should have
played the shot he intended when asking for relief.
“Well, probably,” Garcia said. “That’s what I would have done
after trying to get relief. But he did what he thought was right,
and he’s the one who has to live with it, so he’ll be fine.”
That phrase – “he’s the one who has to live with it” – can
suggest that Poulter did something wrong.
Poulter said he wasn’t put off and stood my his decision.
“It’s my prerogative,” he said. “Do I want to give Sergio the
hole if it doesn’t come off? I want to see him putt, and I’ve got
every right to see him putt.”
Poulter had a far more difficult time reaching the
Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, the No. 48 seed, had never trailed
in 59 holes until Poulter won the 17th hole with a par to go 1 up.
Poulter won on the 18th when Thongchai’s 15-foot birdie hung on the
In the other quarterfinal matches, Garcia pulled away late over
Oliver Wilson of England, 4 and 3; and Villegas built a 4-up lead
at the turn and beat South Africa’s Retief Goosen, 4 and 3.