Ian Poulter beat Luke Donald 2 and 1 in the World Match Play Championship on Sunday, denying his fellow Englishman’s bid to gain the No. 1 spot in the world rankings for the first time.
The 22nd-ranked Poulter, who defeated top-ranked Lee Westwood in the last 16, pulled clear of his Ryder Cup teammate by winning two of the last four holes with birdies in a scrappy final in Andalusia.
The second-ranked Donald would have toppled Westwood as No. 1 if he had won the tournament but he missed his chance — just like he did last month when losing a playoff to Brandt Snedeker at The Heritage in South Carolina.
“Ian took his opportunities and I didn’t,” Donald said. “It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But I just ran out of steam a little bit.”
Poulter became the first player to win both Match Play titles either side of the Atlantic — he won the Accenture version last year. Donald won the 2011 edition of that tournament in Arizona in February.
Poulter, who beat Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts at the first playoff hole in the second semifinal earlier Sunday, had been taken to at least 18 holes in his five previous matches on the Finca Cortesin course this week, while Donald had marched relentlessly to the final despite struggling with a throat infection.
But Donald never found his top form against Poulter, making just one birdie — at No. 6 — and four bogeys.
Poulter went 1 down on the eighth when, after slicing his tee shot into the bushes at the side of the fairway, he slipped down a bank trying to thrash away his second shot.
He got up unscathed to promptly concede the hole, shared the next three holes and then drained a 45-foot putt on the 12th green to draw even.
Birdies for Poulter at the 14th and 16th sealed Donald’s fate.