Jason Day and Ian Poulter (Getty Images)
Ian Poulter finished fourth at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship after Jason Day won the third-place play-off one up in cold and windy Arizona today.
Europe's Ryder Cup hero missed out on claiming the trophy for the second time in four years, losing 4 and 3 to defending champion Hunter Mahan in the semi-finals; but he was able to console himself with a return to the Official World Golf Ranking’s top ten for the first time in 25 months.
Poulter had been trying to make it back-to-back World Golf Championships victories after his triumph at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai last November.
He had beaten Stephen Gallacher, Bo Van Pelt, Tim Clark and Steve Stricker to reach the last four, but an inspired 20 yard chip-in by Mahan from over the short 12th proved the decisive moment.
"It's a shame really and disappointing," Poulter said. "Hunter played very solid and chipped unbelievably well."
The Englishman had hopes of pulling back to only one down when he was the one to find the green on the 12th, but instead he fell three behind.
"It just looked perfect as soon as I hit it and it trickled in," said Mahan.
Poulter added: "It was a huge turnaround and from that point there was no let-up."
The gap quickly became four when he missed the fairway, the green and a five foot putt for a bogey at the 14th.
He came back with a birdie, but it was matched by the 30 year old Californian and that was that.
Australian Day looked exhausted from his exploits against Major Champions Bubba Watson and Graeme McDowell for much of the day, and fired wildly into the desert on three of the first four holes of the consolation game.
However, he salvaged a half on one of them and then turned things round.
Poulter bogeyed the seventh, ninth and 12th and could not match his opponent's birdie at the long eighth.
Another bogey came on the 14th to leave him three down, but Poulter's pars took the 16th and 17th before Day got up and down from a bunker at the last – his victory worth the small matter of €83,346 difference in prize money between third and fourth.