Brian Keogh in Tucson
Adrenaline junkie Ian Poulter showed the kind of fight that made him a Ryder Cup player when he ended Welshman Bradley Dredge’s hopes of causing another upset in the WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship at The Gallery Golf Club outside Tucson.
The flamboyant Englishman rode a wave of adrenaline he normally finds only on Sundays to see off the shock vanquisher of Ernie Els in round one with a 3 and 1 victory that set up a highly attractive clash with close pal Trevor Immelman in today’s third round.
While Dredge found Els in generous mood on Wednesday, he discovered Poulter to be a stingier opponent in an all-European showdown in scorching desert conditions.
"You have got to get off to a good start and not give anything away,” said Poulter, who was never behind at any stage. “I did that and I love the format here. It is very different to strokeplay and gives me a great buzz because sometimes I am not revved up until Sunday.
“Six birdies and no bogeys. I am pretty confident right now the way I’m hitting it. Trevor? There’re all friends at this stage.”
Poulter’s only moment of generosity came at the par-five first, where Dredge looked certain to go one up after a glorious fairway wood approach to just six feet.
The Englishman pitched to 25 feet in three and holed his birdie putt as Dredge rattled his eagle attempt three feet past and was amazed to be conceded the curling return for a half in four.
“Listen, I was over the moon to walk off with a half,” Poulter argued. “Was it three feet? It only looked like two. I was very generous then, wasn’t I?”
Immelman, who was the last man to beat Tiger Woods in a PGA Tour event when he triumphed in the Western Open last July, is likely to cause Poulter more problems on the evidence of his 3 and 1 win over US Ryder Cup star Chris DiMarco.
The South African was two up at the turn and while DiMarco showed signs of life with a winning eagle at the 10th, birdies at the 11th and 13th were too much for the American.
“It’s all going to be happening on the first tee tomorrow,” said Immelman of his clash with fellow Lake Nona resident Poulter. “He’s a real tough, fiery competitor so I am expecting him to go out there and really be pumped up. I’m going to need another day like today.”
The clash between two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal and defending champion Geoff Ogilvy was a thriller that produced nine birdies on the front nine alone before the Australian prevailed by 2 and 1 to set up a meeting with Sweden’s Niclas Fasth, who had two eagles in a one up victory over Retief Goosen.
Olazabal had scorched to the turn in an estimated five under par 31 but was still just one up on the Australian, who then squared the match with a birdie at the 10th.
Another Ogilvy birdie at the 11th, his fourth in six holes, put him in front for the first time before Olazabal replied in typically brilliant fashion by holing a 15 yard bunker shot for an eagle two at the 362 yard 12th before faltering near the end.