WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship: Tourney's final four has star power

Semifinals pit Poulter vs. 2012 champ Mahan and Kuchar vs. Day
2013-02-24T00:00:00Z WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship: Tourney's final four has star powerDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Defending WGC-Accenture Match Play champion Hunter Mahan walked up the 18th fairway Saturday afternoon about 25 yards behind the reigning U.S. Open champion, Webb Simpson.

Five minutes earlier, 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell walked off the same green. Ian Poulter, the 2010 Match Play champ, didn't need 18 holes, and 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson never made it to 18. But both were on the course Saturday, as were a total of nine former Ryder Cup players.

Who said there isn't star power on Dove Mountain?

In this morning's semifinals, Matt Kuchar will face Jason Day and Mahan will play Poulter.

"I know it's not the top four in the world, probably what everyone was hoping for, but there's been a lot of great golf played, a lot of great shots, a lot of great putts," said Mahan, who advanced with a 1-up win over Simpson.

Poulter, who has represented Europe in the Ryder Cup five times, dismissed Steve Stricker 3 and 2 in the quarterfinals.

The other semifinal match pits two-time Ryder Cup participant Kuchar against Day, an Australian who has played in the Presidents Cup and been ranked as high as seventh in the world.

Day and Kuchar will tee off at 7:05 a.m. Mahan and Poulter will follow at 7:20. The winners will meet at approximately 12:15 p.m. today in the championship match.

"Myself and Poulter and 'Kuch' and Jason Day, I think those are four pretty good players," Mahan said.

Officially, Mahan is ranked 25th in the world. But when it comes to The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, few have been better.

In his first match last year, Mahan trailed Zach Johnson after 16 holes. He hasn't trailed since.

Saturday, Mahan bested German Martin Kaymer 5 and 4 and then outlasted Simpson by one. He has yet to face a deficit in this year's tournament, a trend he started over his final five rounds in 2012.

"It's somewhat refreshing a little bit to play in match play because you can just lay it all out there every single match," Mahan said. "It's not like another tournament where it's one day after the next.

"You're just in the moment so much here that it's just easy to play even when you're a little bit tired."

Mahan and Simpson went back and forth in the most riveting of the quarterfinal matches. Neither player ever led by more than one hole.

Mahan broke an all-square deadlock when he won the 16th hole. He and Simpson halved the final two to send Mahan into the semifinals.

"It was a tight match and really could have gone either way," Mahan said.

He'll face another former Match Play champion in Poulter. The 37-year-old Englishman beat Tim Clark 5 and 3 in the third round before defeating Stricker.

Poulter is 19-3-2 in his last 24 match play contests.

"I feel I'm a better player today than what I was in 2010," Poulter said. "I feel more equipped than what I was in 2010. It's been pretty good the last few days."

Kuchar has had a good last few days - and last few years - at Dove Mountain. He is 13-3 in his last 16 matches here, and has advanced to the semifinals for the second time in three years.

Kuchar lost to eventual champion Luke Donald in 2011. He fell to Mahan last year in the quarterfinals.

This year, he's playing as well as anybody in the field. Kuchar has yet to play the 18th hole in any of his matches.

"It has been nice not to have to take a match that far," Kuchar said. "Any time you can close a match out early, it's always an extra bonus."

The 34-year-old American will face Day, who doesn't have nearly the Match Play ré-sumé as the other three.

This is his third trip to Southern Arizona, and just the first time he's made it past the fourth round. Day was eliminated in the second round last year but is having a strong week. He has beaten three former major winners: Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson and Graeme McDowell.

"It says something that my game is moving in the right direction that I beat the reigning Masters champion and a former U.S. Open champion (Saturday)," Day said. "I've been playing great, and I'm just really, really excited to get into the matches tomorrow."

On StarNet: See more photos from Dove Mountain at azstarnet.com/gallery

Today

• What: Semifinals and final

• Where: The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, Marana

• Matches start: 7:05 a.m.

• TV: 7 a.m. on Golf Channel; noon on Channel 4

• Tickets: Buy at Bashas', call 520-571-0400 or go to worldgolfchampionships.com

More inside

• Patrick Finley: Brit Poulter was cold-blooded in Saturday's wins

• Conditioning, focus will be key in tourney's second 'double-day'

• Seen and heard at Dove Mountain

• Saturday's match results and today's tee times

Pages B6-B7

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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