Sinking feeling for Poulter
Marana - Ian Poulter's title defence was over before the sun had barely passed the yardarm at the World Golf Championships Match Play Championship on Wednesday.
The Englishman was the second player eliminated from the 64-man event, outlasted by American Ryder Cup star Stewart Cink, who won 1-up at the 19th hole on a delightful winter's day at the Dove Mountain course.
Cink - who was the United States star performer in their agonising Ryder Cup defeat by Europe last year - sank a five-footer at the 18th to stay alive before the 2009 British Open champion set up his victory by hitting his approach shot to 3-feet at the next.
Poulter, the 12th seed overall, was surprised to be sent out in the opening match at the crack of dawn, which struck some as a bit of an insult.
However, he would not have been surprised by the tough match he had against Cink, the losing finalist in 2008.
Earlier, Englishman Luke Donald became the first player to advance to the final 32, hammering hapless American Charley Hoffman 6 and 5.
"I don't think Charley was in his best form," admitted ninth-seed Donald after closing out the victory.
"It's always nice to win your first match (and) to win it pretty easily. You always go into matches expecting them to be tough."
Donald speculated that Hoffman might be overgolfed after a busy early season schedule. But Donald certainly hasn't been playing too much, because this is just his second tournament of the year.
"That's the longest off-season I've had for seven or eight years," he said. "This year I decided to try something different, spend a little bit more time at home with my new daughter, put the clubs away for more of an extended period."
American J.B. Holmes became the third player to advance to the second round, beating Colombian Camilo Villegas 4 and 2. Holmes only got into the event when injured South African Tim Clark withdrew on the eve of the tournament.
South African Ernie Els won a hard fought match a few minutes later, beating American Jeff Overton 1-up at the first extra hole.
Most of the top seeds had late tee times, including No. 1 Lee Westwood and No. 3 Tiger Woods.
Results (x denotes seed):
Bobby Jones bracket
Luke Donald (ENG x3) bt Charley Hoffman (USA x14) 6 and 5
Ben Hogan bracket
Stewart Cink (USA x14) bt Ian Poulter (ENG x3) 19 holes
Sam Snead bracket
J.B. Holmes (USA) bt Camilo Villegas (COL x11) 4 and 2