No win Poulter squeezes in

Ian Poulter has qualified for the last 16 of the Volvo World Match Play Championship without winning a match.

Ian Poulter has qualified for Saturday morning’s round of the last 16 at the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Spain without winning a match.

Poulter halved both his round robin group games against Francesco Molinari and Paul Lawrie, but went through to the knock-out stages thanks to Molinari 3 & 2 afternoon victory over Lawrie.

Poulter won the WGS version of the World Match play championship at Arizona last year, but his next match here won’t be easy, though.

He’s drawn the tournament tough nut; an in-form Lee Westwood, who sailed into Saturday with a second succesful dazzling victory, this one by 4 &3 over Australian Aaron Baddeley.

“I’ve carried on from where I left off in Indonesia and Korea,” said the English No 1 who is now seeking his third straight victory.

“I will try to keep that going, but match play is different – you can play well and still lose.”

Graeme McDowell, the US Open Champion, in the meantime, also topped his group at Finca Cortesin on Saturday when he followed up his win over Open champion Louis Oosthuizen on Thursday with a late victory on the final green against Venezuela’s highly capable US PGA Tour rookie Jhonattan Vegas.

All this only to find that he would next meet fellow Northern Ireland compatriot Rory McIlroy on Saturday after the 21-year-old, who could have avoided McDowell, with a Friday afternoon victory to top his section, unexpectedly lost 3 & 2 to Belgium’s surprise package Nicolas Colsaerts, who earlier, in the morning round, had also disposed of South Africa’s two-time major winner Retief Goosen.

The two Ulstermen are ranked fifth and sixth in the world, but McDowell, the higher ranked of the two, said: “He (McIlroy) beats the crap out of me every time we play (practice rounds) together.

“But this is not the Northern Ireland match play championship and I’m hoping it’s going to be different. It’s the Volvo World Match Play and the pressure is on.

“I am sure he will expect to beat me, but it will be a great game and I am excited about it.

“He is a fabulous player, so talented. This course is all about driving the ball and he is pretty good at that.

“It’s hard to play against a close friend, but you’ve got to leave your friendship on the sidelines. I stopped playing him because he’s too good. I’m more of an observer and he just tends to beat me up.”

Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer, each of whom could take the number one spot off Westwood this weekend, both had their second victories.

Donald, who beat the German in the Accenture Match Play final down Tucson way just three months ago, beat defending champion Ross Fisher 3&1 on Friday afternoon, but Fisher also went through after an astonishing win over lone American Ryan Moore earlier in the day.

Moore went four up on the outward half and at three up with four to play, looked set for victory.

Fisher had other ideas, though, winning all four of the last four holes and going through to a Saturday morning clash with reigning Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, who came back from a crushing 6 & 5 defeat to Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez in Thursday’s first round with a 5 & 4 win over Johan Edfors, the Saturday morning 2 & 1 conqorer of Jimenez, and then won a play-off between the three that saw Jimenez fall by the wayside.

Edfors now faces the in-form Donald while an apparently re-awakened Schwartzel will go up against Fisher on Saturday morning.

Kaymer, meanwhile, has so far defeated the two Koreans YE Yang and Noh Seung-yul and might have had to face Paul Casey next, but the world number nine, won’t be around at the weekend, the highest seed to fall out after the round robin play having lost to Alvaro Quiros and then Soren Kjeldsen.

The feeling of a good many on Friday was that the current new format might need some tweaking before next year.

In five of the eight groups it was known who was going through before the the third round of the round robin play had even teed off.

“It’s a little strange when you approach a match and you know you don’t have to win it to still progress,” said Donald.

There was, however, the first three-man play-off in the history of an event which until two years ago had always been staged at Wentworth.

That was between Schwartzel, Edfors and Miguel Angel Jimenez after each had won one game and lost one.

Jimenez went out when he bogeyed the first extra hole and Schwartzel topped the group when Edfors bogeyed the next.

The qurters finals of the event will be played on Saturday afternoon, the semi-finals on Sunday morning and the final on Sunday afternoon.

Tee times for the last 16 matches on Saturday morning (all times BST)

06.45 S-Y Noh v A Quiros
06.55 M Kaymer v S Kjeldsen
07.05 R Fisher v C Schwartzel
07.15 L Donald v J Edfors
07.25 J Vegas v N Colsaerts
07.35 G McDowell v R McIlroy
07.45 A Baddeley v F Molinari
07.55 L Westwood v I Poulter