Poul­ter, Ma­han are set for semi­fi­nal matchup

The Washington Post Sunday - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL -

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).

STU­ART FRANKLIN/GETTY IM­AGES

“I’m pretty proud of it. Does it sur­prise me? I love match play,” Ian Poul­ter said of his re­cent success with the for­mat.

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