Hunter Mahan (Getty Images)
Hunter Mahan ended Ian Poulter’s hopes of regaining the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at the semi-final stage.
The defending champion was brilliant from tee to green all morning at Dove Mountain and an out-of-sorts Poulter simply could not live with the American’s unerring accuracy.
Behind for much of the contest, Poulter fought gamely but there was no recovery from a decisive blow at the 12th.
Already two down, the Englishman appeared set to half the deficit when found the green from the tee after Mahan’s effort had flown through it into thick rough.
But Mahan spectacularly chipped in and never allowed Poulter a sniff of getting back into it; eventually running out a 4 and 3 winner.
The 2010 winner Poulter, sporting a red driver with matching shoes, fell behind when Mahan – who has not trailed in a contest at this event since last year’s opening round - birdied the second.
Poulter drove into the lip above a bunker at that hole and was forced to lay-up, while Mahan found a greenside bunker in two and was able to get up-and-down.
After stealing a half at the third with a brilliant up-and-down from the bunker, a par was good enough for Ryder Cup star Poulter to draw level at the fourth after defending champion Mahan pulled his approach into sand and needed two attempts to escape.
Parity was short lived, however. At the fifth Poulter drove into a bunker, hit his second into the desert, and could only push his third into more rough; Mahan’s routine par giving him the hole.
Poulter’s inability to find a first birdie of the day cost the 37 year old again at the long eighth – after losing position with his second he could only make par and Mahan flopped his third stone dead to go two up.
Having driven beautifully all week, it was a surprise to all concerned when Mahan hit his tee shot into a bunker at the ninth.
He was forced to lay up with his second, but produced a fantastic third to two feet for a half.
An uncharacteristic miss from inside ten feet cost Poulter the chance to win the tenth with a par, and when Mahan brilliantly chipped in for a two at the 11th it spelt real trouble for the World Number 13 at three down with six to play.
Poulter’s hopes were dealt another blow when he missed a five footer at the 14th, and although he produced only his second birdie of the day at the 15th Mahan matched it to progress to the final, where he will face compatriot Matt Kuchar.