KARVARNA, Bulgaria – Pre-tournament favorite Ian Poulter bowed out of the Volvo World Match Play Championship looking for the “tallest tree and the shortest rope.”
That quote described the Englishman’s mood after losing his second match in two days, going down by one hole to South Africa’s Thomas Aiken. Ever honest, Poulter vented his frustration after a day that saw him play so poorly he lost two balls in three holes, hooking drives at the 10th and 12th.
“It’s simply disgusting, disgraceful and there is no explanation for it,” Poulter said. “It’s simply not good enough. It’s a long year; it’s one week. I’m [upset]. I’m going to stay [upset] for a couple of hours and get back to England and go and win at Wentworth (next week’s BMW PGA Championship).”
Poulter was never really in the match. He lost the first hole to a birdie and gave away the second with a bogey after needing two shots to get out of a greenside bunker. He struggled all the way around.
The Ryder Cup star managed to get the match back to all square with wins at the eighth and ninth holes, but gave away the 10th when he hooked his tee shot into deep bushes. He then gave away the 12th with another hook that bounded over a cliff down to the ninth hole.
He managed to square the match again with a birdie at the par-5, 16th but gave Aiken the match when he hit another massive hook on the 18th that landed in the adjacent fourth fairway. His approach missed the green, and a poor chip to ten feet and a missed putt meant Poulter was on his way home.
“Thomas has played well enough to beat me,” Poulter said. “There’s no consolation about any loss in any match. It’s completely unacceptable as far as I’m concerned. My concentration simply wasn’t there. So therefore you make mental errors when obviously you haven’t used your brain the way you should.”
So Aiken went through instead of the pre-tournament favorite. The South African finished second behind group winner Thongchai Jaidee, who beat Poulter in the opening match.
“I got off to a good start and got it to two up, but as you expect from him he came back,” Aiken said. “Then I had three good holes – 10, 11 and 12 – to go back to two up and he came back again, back to all square. Fortunately I just didn’t make any mistakes on the last couple of holes and he made an error at the last.”
The South African now faces Shane Lowry in the last 16. Lowry won his group after winning a three-man playoff with Peter Hanson and George Coetzee.
Graeme McDowell, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Jaidee, Scott Jamieson and Francesco Molinari are the only players so far to have a 100 percent record. Also through to the quarterfinals are Bo Van Pelt, defending champion Nicolas Colsaerts, Hanson, Chile’s Felipe Aguilar, Carl Pettersson, Brandon Grace, Brett Rumford, Chris Wood and Richard Sterne.
The match up of the last 16 pits McDowell against Van Pelt. With Poulter out, the Northern Irishman becomes the bookies’ favorite to take the title. He becomes a 4/1 favorite with British Bookmakers Ladbrokes, with defending champion Colsaerts next at 8/1.
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Last 16 Matches
• Graeme McDowell v Bo Van Pelt
• Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano v Nicolas Colsaerts
• Scott Jamieson v Felipe Aguilar
• Thongchai Jaidee v Peter Hanson
• Richard Sterne v Chris Wood
• Branden Grace v Brett Rumford
• Francesco Molinari v Carl Pettersson
• Shane Lowry v Thomas Aiken