Former champion Rory McIlroy found a neighbours backyard swimming pool in losing 6&5 to Ian Poulter after a lop-sided first match on the opening day of the WGC – Dell Match-Play Championship in Austin, Texas.
McIlroy was never in front against his long-time European Ryder Cup colleague including right from an opening tee shot that McIlroy sent way left into the tree-line to find a bunker. Poulter played a superb shot to go 1up with a birdie ‘3’ with the Englishman looking as proud as punch as he so often presents himself if it were a Ryder Cup encounter.
Holes two and three were halved before McIlroy went 2down when he horribly three-putted the par-3 fourth hole. All McIlroy could do was stand looking and shaking his head at how he had taken a ‘4’. If you thought Poulter was cock-of-the-walk, he was now.
Then on the fifth tee, McIlroy created a career first in sending his drive way left at the par-4 fifth hole, over a fence and into a backyard swimming pool. There’s five houses down the left of the fifth hole and each boasts a pool, though there’s one that now has a brand new golf ball needing to be retrieved as evident on the TV coverage of the second WGC encounter of the year. McIlroy reloaded and scrambled his way to a bogey ‘5’ but headed to six now 3down against ‘Poults’.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 24, 2021
The World No. 11 ranked McIlroy mounted a recovery with a birdie on six to get back to 2down and was only 1down in holing a three-footer for birdie at the par-4 eighth hole; with 10 holes to play, McIlroy was back in the frame.
Poulter, however, was not about to stick to any ‘McIlroy Fights Back To Beat Poults’ script, slamming the door shut big time on McIlroy, with three birdies and an eagle from holes nine to 12, sending McIlroy packing in a 6&5 thrashing with a closing par. Their match ended on the 13th hole with McIlroy posting a bogey ‘5’ to Poulter’s par. While there are many surprised by the enormity of McIlroy’s loss, Poulter insists the match wasn’t as easily won as the scoreline suggests.
“I’m not sure it was easy, to be honest,” said Poulter. “I mean, you’re playing Rory and it was apparent when you’re 1-up after being 3-up that this is not going to be an easy match and when he’s kind of gifted me one on 10, you would expect him to have a half a chance to chip that in, obviously not, you’re not expecting him to not get up-and-down.
“I’ve hit a great shot into 11 and that’s not, again, not an easy pin for him when he’s moving the ball right-to-left and hit and hold up shots to a right pin, water right, that’s not really an easy shot. So I could play my cut in there nicely and I just kept him under pressure. I wanted to keep the foot down because it’s too easy to let him get back in the game like he did and then he takes control of the match.”
And when asked if he was pleased that he’d begun with such a dominating victory over one of the game’s superstars, Poulter was Poulter to the six-time European Ryder Cup team member’s core.
“It was kind of like the shit or bust attitude, to be honest with you,” he said. “It gets the adrenaline going, the ticker starts going and quite frankly you’ve just got to be — shit or bust. You got to pony up and hit shots, right? So you got to suck it up and shit or bust. I mean, it’s Englishism. This is that golf course where you’re going to make mistakes, hazards everywhere, tricky pin position, it was just try and keep the foot down.”
Poulter now faces Aussie Cameron Smith, a 1up winner over Lanto Griffin while McIlroy faces Griffin. And there was no good news for Shane Lowry either on a difficult day for the Irish in Texas. Up against American Ryan Palmer in his opening match, Lowry managed just one birdie to Palmer’s five before going down 4&2.
Full scoring HERE
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