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Sunday, 21 February 2010
WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship - Final Round  (Getty Images)
WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship - Final Round (Getty Images)

Ian Poulter defeated Paul Casey 4 and 2 in the first ever all-European World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship final.

An extraordinary week for The European Tour - which provided all four semi-finalists and seven of the last eight - ended with Poulter, dressed all in pink, achieving a brilliant maiden victory on US soil.

Poulter takes home the Walter Hagen trophy for his win at Dove Mountain, which is appropriate given both men's notorious attention to detail when it comes to what to wear on the course.

"He was very snappy," quipped Poulter. "Are you saying I'm a snappy dresser?"

Poulter moved hotel rooms at the start of the week due to noise, but had become paranoid when the new room number ended in 13. After taking the biggest prize of his career the 34 year old admitted his concern had been misplaced.

"I kind of like Number 13," he added. "I was very concerned, I should say, more concerned than what most people would think. I was very much thinking about moving rooms again, but I guess it worked."

Casey, who broke his duck across the Atlantic at last season's Houston Open, was defeated in the 36-hole final a year after going down 4 and 3 to Australian Geoff Ogilvy.

The pair were competing not just for the title and a difference in prize money of around €400,000 - the winner's cheque was €1,019,635 and the runner-up received € 619,064- but also the World Number Five spot.

Despite his second round exit on Thursday, Lee Westwood remains the highest-placed European at fourth, but Poulter and Casey are now immediately behind him - and Poulter is the first Englishman to win any of the four World Golf Championships individual titles since they began in 1999. Only Darren Clarke and Henrik Stenson have previously brought the WGC - Accenture Match Play title to Europe.

"It feels really, really nice," he said. "It's been a long time coming and I am very happy.

"It was a good day's golf. I knew I was in great form and I felt calm all day - nerves didn't play any factor at all. I know Paul's disappointed being runner-up two years in a row."

Poulter had spoken earlier in the week about the career goals he has set himself, and confirmed that victory here had accomplished more than one of those targets.

"There's certainly a few ticked in those boxes now," he added. "It's just another goal achieved, and hopefully we can now set our goals a little higher to kick on for the rest of the year.

"I putted very, very well this week. My short game was very, very good, and obviously I made a lot of good up and downs at the right time. It kept a lot of pressure on my playing partners this week.

"With nine holes to play in previous wins, I would admit I've been nervous and I've been excited. But today I just felt calm and I felt that I could deliver whatever I needed to deliver."

Casey first had to get past Colombian Camilo Villegas at the start of the day.

Their semi-final was halted after 23 holes on Saturday because of fading light, but on the resumption Villegas snap-hooked his opening drive into the desert scrub and Casey, lucky to escape when his opponent missed from under three feet on the green before, won with a par four.

Minutes later he was teeing off again, but the only time he led was when he was conceded an eagle on the long second after a glorious 216 yard approach to eight feet.

Poulter birdied the next from seven feet, went ahead on the seventh and by the 14th was four clear.

Losing another hole at that point would have turned a drama into a crisis for Casey, but he got back into the match over the closing stretch of the morning round.

Lunching two down meant it was still all to play for, but Poulter birdied the next two holes from 15 and six feet and despite twos from Casey at the 21st and 24th - he almost aced the second of those - the gap was three at the turn.

When Casey made a 14 footer on the next it was game on again, but Poulter got up and down at the following two and almost chipped in for eagle at the 33rd.

Casey lipped out from 13 feet to fall three down with three to play and when he failed to get up and down from a bunker on the short next Poulter, with two for it, made a ten footer to put the icing on the cake.

Casey said: "Ian played excellent golf. There were a lot of shots I wanted to pull off and didn't, but he did a fantastic job.

"I don't feel physically tired, I feel mentally tired, but I am not making excuses.

"There are a lot of positives to come out of this week for me."

While Casey was an amateur star - English champion two years running, Walker Cup partner of Luke Donald, world team championship runner-up and American college winner - Poulter's story is very, very different.

Two years older at 34, he turned professional in 1994 with a four handicap and with no national honours.

He wanted to play on Tour, but did not make it through the Qualifying School until the fourth attempt.

Poulter worked in the pro shop at the Hitchin club Jack o'Legs, named after a 14th-century character from folk legend who lived in a cave and was famed for robbing the rich to give to the poor.

Yet once he finally got his card Poulter - now worth millions himself and with a collection of cars to which he recently added a Ferrari California and Mercedes s-63 - was a winner in his first season as well.

The Italian Open helped him become Rookie of the Year for 2000 and his name is on that trophy just above Casey's.

Off and running, he had five more wins in the next four years and made his Ryder Cup debut along with Casey in the 2004 victory in Detroit.

Casey did not have to go beyond the 14th hole in his first four games this week, but then had his incredible tussle with Villegas and came through only after the Colombian had missed from under three feet on Saturday evening.

Poulter, top scorer with four points out of five at Valhalla two years ago, went to an extra hole in his first match with American Justin Leonard, but after that gained in such confidence that come the semi-finals he defeated Sergio Garcia 7 and 6.

There was further disappointment for Garcia as Villegas took third place with a 5 and 4 win over 18 holes.


 

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