Poulter, Mahan are set for semifinal matchup
The stars are gone from the Match Play Championship in Marana, Ariz. Still remaining are Ian Poulter and Hunter Mahan, the best in match play over the last couple of years.
Poulter added to his reputation as one tough customer Saturday when he beat Steve Stricker with one big putt after another, raising his record in match play to 19-3-2 over the last 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 semifinals 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 to within six 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 in England.
“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.”
LPGA: Thai teenager Ariya Jutanugarn shot a 2-under 70 to lead by three strokes after the third round of the LPGA Thailand in Chonburi despite finishing with two bogeys.
Last year’s top-ranked amateur, Ariya holed seven birdies — including five straight from No. 10 onward — for an 11-under 205 total at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course. Next were Stacy Lewis (76), Se Ri Pak (71) and Beatriz Recari (72).
“I’m pretty proud of it. Does it surprise me? I love match play,” Ian Poulter said of his recent success with the format.