Poulter settles for fourth
Ian Poulter had to settle for fourth place rather than first at the Accenture Match Play Championship in cold and windy Arizona - but at least he is back in the world's top 10 for the first time in 25 months.
Europe's Ryder Cup hero failed to claim the trophy for the second time in four years, losing 4&3 to defending champion Hunter Mahan in the semi-finals. And while Mahan then battled fellow American Matt Kuchar for a title worth almost £965,000 - Kuchar led by two with three holes to play - Australian Jason Day came from two down to win the third place play-off by one hole.
Poulter had been 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 an inspired 20-yard chip-in by Mahan from over the short 12th proved the decisive moment.
"It's a shame really and disappointing," Poulter said. "Hunter played very solid and chipped unbelievably well."
The Englishman had hopes of pulling back to only one down when he was the one to find the green on the 12th, but instead he fell three behind.
"It just looked perfect as soon as I hit it and it trickled in," said Mahan, whose duffed chip in the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor allowed Graeme McDowell to clinch the match for Europe.
The gap quickly became four when he 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 by the 30-year-old Californian and that was that.
Day looked less interested in the consolation game than Poulter when he fired wildly into the desert on three of the first four holes, but he salvaged a half on one of them and then turned things round. Poulter bogeyed the seventh, ninth and 12th and could not match his opponent's birdie at the long eighth.
Another bogey came on the 14th to leave him three down, but Poulter's pars took the 16th and 17th before Day got up and down from a bunker at the last. He earned £395,000 to Poulter's £321,000.
As for the final, Kuchar turned four up, lost the 10th and 11th, but holed what appeared a crucial 12-foot birdie putt at the next after Mahan had fired in his tee shot to four feet. It was halved in two. Kuchar also birdied the long 13th, only for Mahan to strike back in kind on the next.