Commentary

Poulter can sleep in before Sunday final

Originally Published: February 20, 2010
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

MARANA, Ariz. -- If there were a tale of the tape for Sunday's final at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Ian Poulter would own a mammoth advantage in the "intangibles" category.

[+] EnlargeIan Poulter
Hunter Martin/Getty ImagesNo matter what happens in Sunday's WGC-Accenture Match Play final, England's Ian Poulter will move up to the highest world ranking of his career.

At exactly 3:15 p.m. local time Saturday, Sergio Garcia attempted to hit a shot from the desert on the 12th hole, only to see it bound off a cactus and fail to advance. He was forced to concede the hole and, subsequently, the semifinal match to Poulter, who won by a 7 and 6 score.

From there, Poulter conducted a few interviews, left the Ritz-Carlton GC and retired to his hotel room, where he turned on the television and watched the other semifinal match between Paul Casey and Camilo Villegas. And watched … and watched … and watched …

How do we know Poulter was paying attention? He was telling the world through his Twitter handle, @ianjamespoulter:

hello guys, sitting on my hotel bed watching Camilo and Paul play extra holes, nice warm bath for me, pretty tired i have to say.

After Villegas won the 18th hole to force extra innings, they halved the next one, thanks to a pair of "good-good" conceded putts, each from four feet away. They halved the next one, too. And the next one. Meanwhile, Poulter kept watching to find out his opponent.

how funny was the give give for the boys on first extra hole, 4ft plus. wow looks like theyre going to the 21st hole

The 21st hole came and went with -- you got it -- another halve. The clock kept ticking, the skies grew darker, the players grew wearier.

And the man already in the final grew increasingly impatient.

who is going to finish this match off, i want to get into a hot bath, come on guys someone hole a put please. my legs are hanging...

Guys I can't wait I'm now in the bath with the tv up loud. Come on who is it going to be.....

laying on the massage table having some treatment getting ready for tomorrow, cant believe they are still out there.

But they were. Playing in near darkness, Villegas and Casey advanced to the fifth extra hole, where finally, mercifully, the match seemed destined for a finish.

After Casey posted a bogey, Villegas was left with a 3-foot putt to reach Sunday's final against Poulter … and he missed.

"I should have made that putt, but it is what it is," Villegas said.

When they returned Sunday morning, Casey carded a 3 on the par-3 15th hole, the 24th of the match. But that was good enough to advance to the final against Poulter as Villegas posted a bogey 4.

"If I'm getting up at 5 in the morning, I wanted it to be for a final, not to continue a semifinal," Casey said Saturday night with a wry smile, "but that's the way it's got to be."

The way it was on Saturday, one finalist was off the course exactly three hours and six minutes before the other potential contender had finished his day, but not his match.

And yes, Poulter watched the entire thing Saturday night, even Villegas' pushed par attempt at the fifth extra hole.

OMG i cant believe that has just missed, wow

Either way, Poulter knew he would have his hands full in the final. Casey is currently the seventh-ranked player in the world; Villegas is 26th.

"They're two guys [who] are very long hitters," said Poulter, who is seeking his first career win on U.S. soil. "And we're at altitude here, so they will probably have an advantage over me off the tee distance-wise.

For his part, Poulter will rise from 11th in the Official World Golf Ranking to a career best whether he wins or loses against Casey in the final.

Asked Saturday night which player he'd rather face, the Englishman was nearly silent for the first time all day, offering a two-word response: "No preference." It's no surprise that he later tweeted about the possibilities.

i guess i will have to wait until the morning to find out who i play, i dont mind either in the final they are both great guys and players

Yes, Poulter continued to wait. So did the rest of us.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.