ENGLAND’S Ian Poulter captured the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson last night as compatriot Paul Casey had to settle for second again.
Poulter led almost all the way and won 4/2.
An extraordinary week for a country that a decade ago had only Lee Westwood in the top 100 ended with Poulter, dressed all in pink, and Casey doing battle for the WGC-Accenture Match Play.
The pair were competing not just for the trophy and a difference in prize money of almost £350,000 – the winner’s cheque was £890,607 and the runner-up received £540,726 – but also the world number five spot.
Casey first had to get past Colombian Camilo Villegas at the start of the day.
Their semi-final was halted after 23 holes on Saturday because of fading light and, on the resumption, Villegas snap-hooked his opening drive into the desert scrub and Casey, lucky to escape when his opponent missed from less than three feet on the green before, won with a par four.
Minutes later he was teeing off again and took the lead when he was conceded an eagle on the long second after a glorious 216-yard approach to eight feet.
Poulter birdied the next from seven feet and by the 14th was four clear.
Losing another hole at that point would have turned a drama into a crisis for Casey but he got back into the match over the closing stretch of the morning round.
Lunching two down meant it was still all to play for but Poulter birdied the next two holes from 15 and six feet and, despite twos from Casey at the 21st and 24th – he almost aced the second of those – the gap was three at the turn.
When Casey made a 14-footer on the next it was game on again but Poulter got up and down at the following two to remain in the driving seat.
While Casey was an amateur star – English champion two years running, Walker Cup partner of Luke Donald, world team championship runner-up and American college winner – Poulter’s story is very, very different.
Two years older at 34, he turned professional in 1994 with a four-handicap and with no national honours.
He wanted to play on tour, but did not make it through the qualifying school until the fourth attempt.
Casey never even had to attend the school, winning the circuit’s Scottish PGA title at Gleneagles in only the 11th start of his rookie season and thereby earning an exemption.
Poulter, on the other hand, worked in the pro shop at the Hitchin club Jack o’Legs, named after a character from folk legend who lived in a cave and was famed for robbing the rich to give to the poor.
Yet, once he finally got his card, Poulter – now worth millions himself and with a collection of cars to which he recently added a Ferrari California and Mercedes s-63 – was a winner in his first season as well.
Colombian Camilo Villegas took third place at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson with a 5&4 victory over Spain’s Sergio Garcia.
He led the consolation match from the moment Garcia double-bogeyed the first hole for the second match in a row.
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