It’s water torture for Rory McIlroy as Ian Poulter hands him lesson in match play and serves the Northern Irishman his heaviest defeat in the WGC-Match Play Championship for a DECADE
- Rory McIlroy chipped into a lake on 13th to conclude match against Ian Poulter
- It marks his heaviest defeat in the WGC-Match Play Championship for a decade
- He went straight to the practice ground after and worked through every club
- McIlroy’s new coach Pete Cowen told fans not ‘expect miracles straight away’
After driving into a swimming pool on the front nine, Rory McIlroy chipped into a lake on the 13th hole on Wednesday to bring his match against Ian Poulter to a truly abject conclusion.
Now that is what you call sinking without trace.
‘Don’t expect miracles straight away,’ McIlroy’s new coach Pete Cowen had warned and no miracles were on show as the Northern Irishman suffered a 6&5 shellacking at Austin, Texas for his heaviest defeat in the WGC-Match Play Championship for a decade.
The fact the 31-year-old went straight to the practice ground and promptly worked through every club in his bag emphasised how poorly he had played.
Rory McIlroy chipped into a lake on the 13th hole to conclude his match against Ian Poulter
Of course he was unlucky to be kicking off against such a noted match play exponent, and Poulter did a typically fine job of keeping a metaphorical boot on McIlroy’s throat.
But what a worrying performance this was, given the close proximity of the Masters in a fortnight.
The only consolation was the group format rather than straight knockout, which means McIlroy has two more games to find a semblance of the rhythm and balance that once made him the most admired golfer on the planet.
Imagine if this had been his last competitive outing before stepping on to the first tee at Augusta?
Poulter did a typically fine job of keeping a metaphorical boot on McIlroy’s throat in Austin
McIlroy’s new coach Pete Cowen (left) has told fans not ‘expect miracles straight away’
As for Poulter, he was characteristically fired up at the thought of taking down the top seed in his group. The 45-year-old made his intentions clear from the off, hitting a wedge to six feet at the first and rolling in the birdie putt to go one up.
A McIlroy three-putt gifted him the fourth and then came a wickedly hooked drive from Rory at the fifth that will get plenty of YouTube replays, as it landed in the swimming pool of an adjacent home.
McIlroy did win the sixth and eighth holes to offer the promise of a comeback, only for all the confidence to drain away at the ninth and 10th, where two poor wedge shots in a row — and how often have we seen that recently? — enabled Poulter to restore his three-hole advantage.
Poulter then played two marvellous iron shots in a row, for a birdie at the 11th and then to just six feet at the par-five 12th to set up what proved to be a conceded eagle.
McIlroy went straight to the practice ground after and promptly worked through every club
The end came at the short par-four 13th, where McIlroy struck a wonderful drive over Lake Austin and just beyond the green, only to then hit a sprinkler head with his chip and the ball accelerated into the water.
In the other game in this group, Australian Cameron Smith beat American Lanto Griffin one up.
Elsewhere, Frenchman Antoine Rozner, winner of the Qatar Masters this month, pulled off the upset of the day by beating Bryson DeChambeau with a birdie at the 18th.
Jordan Spieth underlined his growing confidence by beating Matt Fitzpatrick 3&1, while Sergio Garcia was impressive in beating Lee Westwood 4&3 in the battle of the Ryder Cup legends.