Ian Poulter (Getty Images)
Steve Stricker may have been celebrating his 46th birthday but there were no gifts from Ian Poulter as the Englishman cruised into the semi-finals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.
On a marathon fourth day, initially delayed by frost for 45 minutes, 2010 winner Poulter needed just 31 of a possible 36 holes to get past first Tim Clark and then Stricker at Dove Mountain.
The Ryder Cup star beat South African Clark 5 and 3 in round three as the tournament made up for lost time following Wednesday’s freak snowstorm.
Stricker had looked imperious as he got past in-form Scott Piercy in the last 16 with a brilliant 30 foot putt at the last, but Poulter produced a short game masterclass.
The American took the first against the player who beat him in the 2008 Ryder Cup singles, but could only par the long next and Poulter took it with a four.
Poulter then won the third with an outrageous 40 foot putt that turned almost 90 degrees en route to the cup.
“It was left to right, right to left, right to left again, hopefully slowing down on the ridge, taking a left hand turn, down the slope and then chucking a little left to right at the end to drop it. It was really nice,” he said afterwards.
“It looks like Steve is going to be going up right there, and I hole, he misses. And from then on I sort of took over and got myself in front.”
The coruscating encounter was illuminated by some wonderful play at the fourth – both missing the green but demonstrating their strengths to rescue par.
First Poulter chipped a bunker shot to two feet, then Stricker rolled in a ten foot clutch putt to keep the deficit to one hole.
Poulter did go two up at the sixth when he brilliantly chipped in, and the gap was three when the 37 year old found another birdie at the eighth.
A 25 footer at the 12th extended Poulter’s advantage and, having birdied the previous three par threes, a ten foot par putt proved enough to seal victory at the 16th.
“Steve is always a tough person to beat, and he was going to play some good golf today,” added Poulter.
“Steve is a great putter. That's exactly what he's renowned for. He strikes it very solid, he's very steady, but he putts unbelievably well.
“I knew I had to bring my game this afternoon to be able to match up against Steve.”
Next up for Poulter is defending champion Hunter Mahan, who beat German Martin Kaymer in the morning 5 and 4, then saw off US Open Champion Webb Simpson on the final green.