Poulter awaits Match Play opponent

Red-hot Ian Poulter gave Sergio Garcia a real hammering in Tucson today - but went to bed not knowing his final opponent at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Red-hot Ian Poulter gave Sergio Garcia a real hammering in Tucson last night - but went to bed not knowing his final opponent at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Fellow Englishman Paul Casey, last year's runner-up, will resume a marathon match with Colombian Camilo Villegas today.

After Casey missed a nine-foot par putt for victory on the final green they went five extra holes at Dove Mountain before darkness forced them off.

It looked all over for sixth seed Casey - not taken beyond the 14th hole en route to the last four - at the final hole of the day, but Villegas missed a par putt from under three feet in the gathering gloom.

That came three hours after Poulter, now close to becoming a near-certainty for the Ryder Cup in October and with a chance to go to world number five on Sunday, had beaten Garcia by a huge 7&6 margin to guarantee himself at least $836,611 (€615,427).

First prize is nearly $1.4m (€1.03m), but for Poulter the biggest thing of all is the opportunity to grab his first victory on American soil - one of the goals he set for himself this season.

After making the final, he breathed a sigh of relief that he had not jinxed himself at his hotel.

Because of loud music on Friday evening he asked for a change of room and was taken to one ending in 13.

"I was questioning whether to go back, but stayed - and I'm not moving now, am I?" he said with a smile.

All four semi-finalists had to cope with monsoon-like conditions for the best part of an hour early in their matches.

Garcia and Casey both opened with double-bogey sixes in the rain, wind and cold, while at the 208-yard third Garcia had a semi-shank into the lake and Casey made an even bigger hash of the hole.

The sixth seed's tee shot was so badly mis-hit that it travelled little more than 100 yards. He was even short of the water, but then pitched into it and, like Garcia, lost the hole to a bogey four.

Play had been held up for nearly 15 minutes just before, but on the resumption Poulter took the next three holes as well and after losing the seventh - following a dispute over his third shot from a shrub - birdied the next three and won after Garcia missed the green badly on the short 12th.

Casey was two down after three, but battled back to lead by one with one to play. He might yet regret his missed putt on the last, but then saved himself with a superb chip-and-putt birdie over a bunker at the fourth extra hole after his opponent had played a spectacular 50-yard bunker shot to within inches of the cup.

In the morning quarter-finals, Casey made Open champion Stewart Cink his fourth successive 5&4 victim - and left America without a semi-finalist for the first time in the 12-year history of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Even with no Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson in the field, the host country still had 20 players among the 64 starters on Wednesday, but their last hope Cink went the same way as Stephen Ames, Mike Weir and Brian Gay.

"I have no idea what's happening," said Casey. "I know how tough Stewart is. He has a great record in match play.

"I never thought we would be standing here (by the 14th green) talking. I thought it would go all the way. I'm very happy, but shocked."

Cink, second and then third in the event the last two years, jokingly showed his conqueror where the 15th tee was. He has not needed to go there yet.

"I saw a great display," said Cink, whose only success came when Casey drove wildly into the desert on the long 11th and had to take a penalty drop.

Poulter came back from one down on four separate occasions to defeat Thai Thongchai Jaidee with a seven-foot par putt on the final green.

It might have been an all-English semi, but Oliver Wilson lost 4&3 to Garcia, while Villegas beat a badly off-form Retief Goosen by the same margin.

Poulter, who went out in the semi-finals to David Toms in San Diego five years ago, said: "It was difficult out there - the wind started to blow around that back nine and it started to get very, very cold."

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