Well-rested Poulter reaches match play final

England's Ian Poulter tees off the third hole

England's Ian Poulter tees off the third hole in the quarterfinal round of play against Steve Stricker at the Match Play Championship golf tournament. (Feb. 23, 2013) (Credit: AP)

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MARANA, Ariz. -- Ian Poulter's route to golfing success was different from most others. Born and raised in England, he went to work in a pro shop, and could only steal a few moments each day to develop his game.

Poulter arrived at the Accenture Match Play Championship not having played competitively for six weeks, but he was not worried. Or affected.

"I came here very well practiced," he said Saturday after reaching the semifinals with two victories. "I didn't have time to play in my pro shop days, only to practice. That's what I do now when I have time off."

Poulter, the Accenture champion in 2010 -- and then a first-round loser in 2011 and 2012 -- defeated Tim Clark 5 and 3 in a third-rounder in the morning at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain near Tucson.

He followed that in the afternoon with a 3 and 2 quarterfinal victory over Steve Stricker.

In other quarters, Matt Kuchar, a semifinalist in 2011, defeated Robert Garrigus 3 and 2; Jason Day of Australia edged 2010 U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland 1 up; and defending champion Hunter Mahan, who hasn't trailed in a match since his first one last year -- a total of 151 holes -- outlasted U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson 1 up.

Kuchar meets Day in one of Sunday's semis, while Poulter goes against Mahan in the other. The winners play in the afternoon for the title.

The top two seeds, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, both lost in Thursday's snow-delayed first round, which took away some glamour of the only match play tournament on the PGA Tour. But Poulter, Mahan and Kuchar help give it some cachet.

When Poulter, who is 19-3-2 at match play the last four years including Ryder Cup competition, was asked about his confidence, he all but yelled back, "I've got a lot of it."

He also has a great touch on and around the greens.

So does Stricker, who turned 46 yesterday. In his morning third-round match he made eight birdies including hole-winners at 17 and 18 to defeat Scott Piercy 1 up. But Stricker couldn't duplicate that against the well-rested 37-year-old Poulter.

"I feel good," Poulter said. "I feel I'm a better player than I was in 2010. My short game in 2010 was awesome. And it's been pretty good the last few days. My record? I'm pretty proud of it. Does it surprise me? I love match play."

So does Kuchar. "You can play great and get a hot guy and go home early," Kuchar said, "but it's an event I definitely enjoy."

Mahan, who beat McIlroy in last year's final, said he has a good sense of the Dave Mountain layout, which snakes among cactus and sagebrush.

"There's a fine line in being happy with what you've done," Mahan said of his status, "and being satisfied . . . When you're into a match you're all about winning."

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