Donald falls at the final hurdle

 

Golf:Ian Poulter won his second World Match Play title in Spain today — and stopped Luke Donald from becoming world number one. Behind three times in the 18-hole final, Poulter also overcame a fall down a bank to beat Donald 2&1 and so claim the first prize of €800,000.

Donald, denied the world number one spot in a play-off a month ago, just missed out again and stays second behind Lee Westwood. Poulter celebrated his son Luke’s seventh birthday in exactly the way he hoped — although not the moment when he fell down a bank trying to thrash his way out of a bush.

“Happy birthday Luke,” he said. “I thought it would be pretty special to win this today. I finally started holing some putts. I’ve been frustrated for a few months and you have to hole putts to win.”

Donald commented: “It was disappointing — I ran out of steam a bit and didn’t take the opportunities I had.”

In the first all-English final since the event began at Wentworth in 1964, Poulter, last year’s Tucson champion, was behind three times before leveling again with a 40-footer on the short 12th and then going ahead two holes later.

Helped by Donald three-putting the next, missing a three-footer that would have taken the hole, Poulter went two-up with an approach to two feet on the 464-yard 16th and a half on the next was good enough — although he had to make a seven-footer for it.

It was not only Donald who began the day with a chance to be number one. So did Kaymer, but in a repeat of the final in Tucson he came off a clear second best again in their semi-final.

In fact, he did not even take him as far. Their first clash ended 3&2 and this time Donald cruised through 5&3, never trailing from the moment Kaymer bogeyed the second.

By the time the German double-bogeyed the short 10th, finding sand and then going off the other side of the green, he was four down and he conceded after going in another bunker at the 15th.

“He played like a machine a little bit,” stated Kaymer. “It was unbelievable - he hits the fairways, all the greens and he makes the putts. It was like a PlayStation. I thought there’s maybe a little bit of a chance, but I just didn’t see it.

“He never really opens the door for you and it felt a little bit impossible. He really deserves to become the number one.”

The other match was heading the way of Colsaerts until he reached the same hole, but three-putting there and driving into the bushes on the 16th allowed Poulter to draw level.

The Brussels golfer, still only 108th in the world even after winning his first European Tour title in China last month, holed from 10 feet for a two on the next, but Poulter followed him in from nine.

Then at the last, with Colsaerts on in two, Poulter pitched to five feet, halved in birdie fours and went through when his opponent fluffed a chip at the first extra hole and took a bogey six.

“I just kind of hung in there and you just need a bit of momentum,” said Poulter, who went to the final green in every one of his five matches en route to the final — including, of course, against Westwood at the last eight stage.

“I think experience was crucial. Nicolas had the upper hand with length (he was the Tour’s biggest hitter last season) and I just had to trust my short game.”

Being constantly out-driven by 30 yards or more was not something he had to worry about against Donald, but he commented: “He’s in incredible form and he’s a great player, so I’m going to have to play well.”

It did not prove to be the case when they got under way, though. After going ahead with a par on the second Donald bogeyed the fourth and fifth, but then came back with a 25-footer at the sixth.

Back and forth it went after that, with Poulter’s tumble on the eighth even leaving him without his lucky ball-marker until it was retrieved by a referee. He levelled at the next and again with a 40-footer at the short 12th after bogeying the 226-yard 10th, then went ahead for the second time thanks to a pitch to three feet on the 14th.

Crucially Donald missed from three feet for a three-putt bogey and only a half on the next.

Westwood stays world number one while Tiger Woods has dropped to 12th — his lowest position since April 1997 — after going 18 months without a tournament victory.

Woods was eighth last week, but Paul Casey, Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson were all certain to move ahead of him as he rested his leg injury and US Masters champion Charl Schwartzel joined them in reaching the quarter-finals of the Match Play.