AUSTIN, Texas — Standing on the elevated twelfth tee with a picturesque view of the enduring Pennybacker Bridge, Ian Poulter watched his drive safely drop to the green, coolly twirled his driver and let loose a giggle.
Why wouldn’t the sometimes jovial Poulter be beaming? He stood 3-up in his opening match of the WGC-Dell Applied sciences Match Play occasion, in agency management regardless of coming into Wednesday as a determined underdog.
His opponent, World No. 11 Rory McIlroy, wasn’t sharing Poulter’s chipper disposition.
Simply days after a report that he’d added coach Pete Cowen to his team in an effort to proper a struggling ship, McIlroy regarded out of kinds once more at Austin Nation Membership.
Regardless of booming drives that constantly rolled effectively previous Poulter’s, McIlroy fell 6 and 5 in an uninspiring exhibiting that put him in a troublesome spot with two round-robin matches remaining.
McIlroy wasn’t the one greater seed to fall in the course of the early portion of the occasion’s opening day, but it surely was one of many extra stunning, no less than by way of margin of victory. Tony Finau (twelfth seed) and Matt Fitzpatrick (15) fell to Dylan Frittelli (64) and Jordan Spieth (49), respectively, though each of these victors performed collegiately on the close by College of Texas and have familiarity with the course.
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As for McIlroy, it’s been a curler coaster of kinds by means of the previous few months. The previous World No. 1 isn’t in a droop, per se, however he actually isn’t in full management of his sport like he as soon as was. McIlroy has 4 high 20 finishes in six begins this season, however he’s missed a pair of cuts, the latest on the Gamers Championship. He additionally posted a final-round 76 on the Arnold Palmer Invitational whereas firmly within the hunt.
And he continued his erratic play by means of the early portion of Wednesday’s spherical, first three-putting from inside 20 ft on the fourth gap, then discovering water in probably the most unconventional approach on the next gap — by bouncing a tee shot off a cart path and into a swimming pool.
Poulter stated he expects McIlroy to enhance below Cowen’s eye, however he was pleased to use some strain to his pal and earn the victory.
“Clearly, Pete’s going to be working solely with Rory on his sport. I feel there’s a few areas of his sport which I’m certain he desires to form of agency up a little bit bit and clearly, he missed a few tee pictures left. From that time, he was attempting to hit a form of a little bit of a hold-up minimize,” Poulter stated of his pal. “But it surely’s Rory, it doesn’t take loads for Rory to spark up fairly rapidly and I wasn’t shocked with something, I simply felt that I form of, I had executed a fairly first rate job of placing him below strain, I made it tough for him.”
In the meantime, Poulter arrived in Austin contemporary off lacking two straight cuts and with no high 25 end this season. The sixtieth seed regarded assured, nevertheless, as he took benefit of all McIlroy’s early errors.
“I performed effectively and clearly the rating line’s fairly flattering, to be trustworthy with you. However I saved Rory below strain and I made it tough for him,” Poulter stated. “Yeah, he hit a few free pictures, however placing the ball in fairly tight and taking management of a match, I had to do this in opposition to Rory.”