Friday, 19 March 2010
WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship - Final Round  (Getty Images)
WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship - Final Round (Getty Images)

Ian Poulter led Paul Casey by two shots after 12 holes of their 36-hole all-English final at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.

The pair were competing not just for the title and a difference in prize money of almost €350,000 - the winner's cheque was €890,607 and the runner-up received €540,726 - but also the World Number Five spot.

Poulter, dressed in pink, had the added incentive of trying for his first victory on American soil. Casey achieved that in Houston last April.

They arrived at the final – the first between two Europeans in the events history - in very different fashions. Poulter defeated Sergio Garcia seven and six, while Casey's marathon duel with Camilo Villegas spilled into this morning after five extra holes in fading light could not separate them the previous evening.

On the resumption at 7.10am, however, it took only one more for Casey to reach his second successive final in the event.

Runner-up to Australian Geoff Ogilvy last year, Casey triumphed with a par four on the 24th - the longest match of the week - after his Colombian opponent snap-hooked his drive.

Villegas was lucky to find it in the middle of the desert scrub and, although it was in a bush, he was able to hack it back on to the fairway.

While he hit his third to 30 feet beyond the flag Casey's approach came up short of the green, but he chipped to five feet and after Villegas missed he holed.

There was a possible difference of almost €580,000 between winning the semi-final and losing it.

As soon as Casey had shaken hands with Villegas, the only player so far to take him past the 14th hole this week, he was taken in a buggy back to the practice putting green.

There he was met by Poulter - Nick Faldo's other wild card pick for the last Ryder Cup match - and they walked together to the first tee.

Asked by someone who they should root for, Poulter just smiled and said: "England!"

Villegas, meanwhile, was left to rue a missed putt of under three feet in the fast-fading light yesterday evening, but had to gather himself again to take on Garcia at lunchtime.

Casey struck first in the final, hitting a glorious 216 yard approach to the long second to eight feet. With Poulter taking five, the putt was conceded.

But Poulter birdied the next from seven feet and took the seventh and eighth as well. First he hit a hole with a chip after Casey had duffed his, then he made a 12 footer and saw his Ryder Cup teammate miss from eight.

Casey made amends with a ten footer at the tenth, only for Poulter to win the 587 yard 11th with a chip to four feet for birdie.

Casey had been two down only once all week, but Poulter stretched the advantage to four after 14.

He made a seven footer on the long 13th after Casey, bunkered in two, failed from ten feet and a par four was sufficient on the next after his opponent found more sand off the tee.

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