European Tour golf stood proud at the La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad as six Members – Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Fredrik Jacobson, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Poulter and Adam Scott – moved into the last 16 of the WGC – Accenture Match Play Championship.
The sextet were as hot as the Californian sunshine, which had thankfully replaced the torrential downpours of Thursday, the biggest winning margin being posted by debutant Poulter, who thrashed Duffy Waldorf 7 and 5.
The 28 year old Englishman, a five time winner on The European Tour, was always in control of his match and reached the turn four holes to the good. He increased that to five when Waldorf found trouble at the tenth and, for good measure, closed out the victory with birdies on the last two holes.
“I played very solidly, hitting fairways and greens and that helped me get a bit of momentum going early on as Duffy was in a bit of trouble in the rough off the tee and could only chip out sideways,” said Poulter.
“It is good when you get on a bit of a roll like that, you are always on the tee first, and are able to put the ball down the fairway, sometimes that is all it takes.”
If Poulter’s winning margin was the largest, the most impressive figures of the day were posted by Montgomerie who was in truly scintillating form in sweeping aside Stewart Cink 5 and 4, the 40 year old Scot seven under par for his 14 holes.
Five of those birdies came in a blistering opening to the match which saw Montgomerie four up after eight holes, establishing a lead his opponent could not get back at.
“That is the best I have played here without doubt,” said Montgomerie. “Seven birdies and no bogeys in 14 holes is very, very good. It is important in match play not to give holes away as I have tended to do here in the past. You have got to make your opponent earn his holes and that’s what I tried to do today.
“Although Stewart did that on a couple of occasions, I was playing well enough to win either the next hole or the one after that to stop any thoughts of a comeback. After the way I came through against Nick Price in the first round, I said I would be one up on the first tee against Stewart, and I really felt that today.”
Equally impressive were the Irish duo of Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington, Clarke easing past Germany’s Alex Cejka by 6 and 5 while Harrington saw off American Bob Estes by 3 and 2.
Clarke did not have to produce quite the fireworks Montgomerie had to beat Cejka but his solid efficiency on the golf course saw him move into the last 16 on a course where he won the title in 2000, beating World Number One Tiger Woods in the final.
“To be honest the scoreline flattered me a little, but that is match play, isn’t it, you just do enough to beat the man who is facing you,” said Clarke. “Alex had one of those days when everything he tried went wrong and it is hard to get any momentum going in match play when that is happening to you.”
Like Clarke, his fellow Irishman Harrington was never behind in his match against Bob Estes. The World Number 12 birdied the third hole to move ahead and had indeed was four up by the turn.
Estes refused to lie down however, winning the 13th and the 15th to reduce Harrington’s advantage to two with three to play. But the Irishman made sure of the 3 and 2 win at the 16th hole with a par after Estes missed the green and failed to get up and down.
Like Clarke and Cejka, the tenth match of the day also featured an all European tussle between Thomas Björn and Fredrik Jacobson and it was the Swede Jacobson who got the better of the Dane by 5 and 4.
Ironically Björn won the opening hole but proceeded to lose the next two to establish a lead he never relinquished. Indeed Jacobson, the winner of the 2003 Volvo Masters Andalucia, gradually pulled away and did not let Björn win another hole, eventually closing out the match on the 14th green.
While the above five players won convincingly, the exact opposite was the case for Adam Scott, who had to go to the 23rd hole before seeing off the dogged challenge of his compatriot Robert Allenby.
In the third round, Harrington will play David Toms, Poulter will play John Huston, Clarke will play Kenny Perry, Jacobson will play Tiger Woods, Montgomerie will play Stephen Leaney, and Scott will play Davis Love III.