Early Match Play exits for Poulter and Donald

Wed Feb 19, 2014 7:44pm EST
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(Reuters) - Unpredictability was again a recurring theme at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship as former champions Ian Poulter and Luke Donald of England, and American Zach Johnson, were all eliminated in Wednesday's first round.

While American Jimmy Walker maintained his red-hot form this season with a commanding 5&4 win over South Africa's Branden Grace, matchplay expert and 2010 winner Poulter was upset 2&1 by American Rickie Fowler in the 64-player event at Dove Mountain.

Donald, who clinched the 2011 title, was hammered 5&4 by Italy's Matteo Manassero and world number six Johnson, the tournament's third seed who is known for his gritty play, was stunned 5&4 by South Africa's Richard Sterne.

Long-hitting Dustin Johnson, who has triumphed once and been a runner-up twice in just four starts on the 2013-14 PGA Tour, also made an unexpected early exit, going down 4&3 to Swede Peter Hanson.

In total, there were nine upsets based on seedings from the 32 matches at Dove Mountain as the elite World Golf Championships (WGC) event once again lived up to its reputation for wild uncertainty and sharp swings in fortune.

Fowler took advantage of a sub-par performance by Poulter, who is renowned for his steely matchplay prowess, especially in the Ryder Cup.

"I knew it was going to be a tough match today, no matter if Poulter is not on his game," Fowler told reporters. "He wasn't playing great, but I knew he was going to find a way to hang around.

"Obviously it feels good to get a win against him, against anyone. I'm excited for tomorrow."

Poulter, who succumbed to his third first-round exit in four years at Dove Mountain, wrote on Twitter: "Disappointed with my performance today do not deserve to move on. Congrats to @RickieFowlerPGA."   Continued...

Jan 23, 2014; La Jolla, CA, USA; Ian Poulter lines up a putt on the first hole during the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament at Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports - RTX17RVW