Ian Poulter is back in the world's top 10 for the first time in 25 months - but not in the way he wanted.
Europe's Ryder Cup hero failed to make it into the final of the Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson, losing 4&3 to defending champion Hunter Mahan. It meant a seventh all-American final in the event's 15-year history, with Matt Kuchar beating Australian Jason Day by the same margin in the other semi-final.
"It's easy to get up for Ian because he's so good at match play," Mahan said. "I played really well. I was getting up and down from a lot of tough spots."
Winner of the title three years ago, Poulter was also trying to make it back-to-back World Golf Championship victories after his triumph at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai last November.
He had beaten Stephen Gallacher, Bo Van Pelt, Tim Clark and Steve Stricker to reach the last four, but Mahan has not trailed in any game since the first round last year and that remained the case going into the clash with his 2010 Ryder Cup teammate Kuchar.
"It's a shame really and disappointing," Poulter said. "Hunter played very solid and chipped unbelievably well."
In bitterly cold and increasingly windy conditions Mahan birdied the long second and although he bogeyed two holes later Poulter did the same on the next to fall behind again.
The gap was two when Mahan played a delicate chip to two feet on the eighth and after both took six on the next par five, the 11th, the 30-year-old Californian then produced the shot of the morning.
Over the green on the short 12th - and with his opponent on the putting surface - Mahan chipped in from around 20 yards and went three up. The gap quickly became four when Poulter missed the fairway, the green and a five-foot putt for a bogey at the 14th. He came back with a birdie, but it was matched and that was that.
Mahan looked like being behind for the first time all week when he bogeyed the short third, but Kuchar three-putted and they remained level. Poulter, on the other hand, was gifted two early holes when Day fired wildly into the desert on the first and fourth.