Luke Donald suffered one of the biggest defeats of his career yesterday as the giant-killing continued at the Match Play Championship in Arizona.
Made favourite for the title after the first-round defeats of world top two Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, third seed and 2011 winner Donald was crushed 7&6 by unheralded Scott Piercy.
The American, who has made it to 37th in the world with hardly anybody noticing, sank his approach to the fifth for an eagle two and turned in a marvellous six under par 30.
Ian Poulter, who lifted the trophy three years ago, was almost as impressive as he made it through to the last 16 with a 3&1 victory over another of the home contingent in Bo van Pelt, but fifth seed Justin Rose was another to bow out. He was beaten 3&2 by Ryder Cup team-mate Nicolas Colsaerts.
Donald, who returned from a long winter break only last week, had beaten German Marcel Siem with two closing birdies, but gave Piercy just the encouragement he perhaps needed by setting off again with a double-bogey six.
The Englishman could never have expected to be six down by the so-called halfway point, though, and yet another birdie by Piercy on the short 12th finished things off.
Poulter, unbeaten hero of Europe’s triumph in Chicago last September and with match-play crowns to his name on both sides of the Atlantic, has shown no ill-effects of taking six weeks off coming into the tournament.
“It feels pretty good,” he said. “It was always a little risky taking that amount of time off, but it’s working out pretty well.
“I worked hard at home, put some new irons in the bag and I couldn’t be any fresher or fitter than I am right now.
“I didn’t make any silly mistakes and I guess making seven birdies you are going to be tough to beat.”
Having also eliminated Scot Stephen Gallacher, he next faces South African Tim Clark, who has so far defeated Adam Scott and Thorbjorn Olesen without having to play the final hole.
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