sport

Early exit for Poulter

Former champion Ian Poulter suffered his third first-round exit in four years from the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Wednesday.

Poulter, whose love of sleep means he happily describes himself as "half-man, half-mattress", was probably not best pleased to be out in the first match at 0725 local time at Dove Mountain.

And the Englishman's mood will not have been improved by a 2&1 defeat to American Rickie Fowler, who led from the fourth hole onwards and will now face compatriot Jimmy Walker in the second round.

Walker, who has already won three times in the 2014 PGA Tour season, secured the first victory of the day with a comfortable 5&4 win over South African Branden Grace.

After the opening three holes were halved, Fowler won three of the next four and needed only one birdie to do so, although 2010 champion Poulter then reduced his deficit with a birdie on the eighth.

A par on the 10th was enough for Fowler to move three up once again and although he gave the next hole back with a bogey six, a superb eagle on the par-five 13th - with Poulter in trouble over the green - restored a three-hole cushion.

In typical fashion Poulter refused to throw in the towel and won the 14th with a birdie from 18ft as Fowler missed from much closer, but further birdie chances went begging on the next three holes to seal his fate.

Finland's Mikko Ilonen had looked like creating a shock when he led Bubba Watson by two holes with six to play, but lost the next three holes and Watson - who claimed his first win since the 2012 Masters in the Northern Trust Open on Sunday - sealed a 2&1 win on the 17th.

"After number 11 I knew I had to fight hard and somehow I did it," Watson said.

"It's very tough, with all the media and attention around me after the win on Sunday, to focus enough on golf so hopefully this match scared me enough that I will focus a little harder."

There was better news elsewhere for two more of the 25-strong European contingent, with Peter Hanson three up on Dustin Johnson after 10 and France's Victor Dubuisson ahead of Kevin Streelman by the same margin at the turn.

Spain's Sergio Garcia had been two down after three holes against Australian Marc Leishman, but birdies at the sixth and 11th got Garcia back on level terms.

Sweden's Jonas Blixt was the next man into the last 32 with a 2&1 win over former US PGA champion Keegan Bradley and South African George Coetzee saw off Steve Stricker 3&1.

Stricker's participation in the event had been in serious doubt until his brother underwent a successful liver transplant at the weekend.

In the later matches, Rory McIlroy lost the first hole to a birdie from Boo Weekley but hit back with a two-putt birdie of his own on the par-five second to get back on level terms.

Hanson completed a 4&3 win over Johnson - the world number eight has now lost in the first round five times in the last six years - and will face Dubuisson in the last 32 after he saw off Streelman 5&4.

The biggest margin of victory so far belonged to American Billy Horschel, who thrashed Welshman Jamie Donaldson 6&5, while Bill Haas beat Miguel Angel Jimenez 5&4 and Thomas Bjorn defeated Francesco Molinari 2&1.

Two matches so far had been decided on the 18th, Patrick Reed beating Graeme DeLaet and Jordan Spieth edging out Pablo Larrazabal, while the first to require extra holes involved Garcia and Leishman.

Garcia won the 17th with a birdie to get back to all square but could only bogey the 18th and Leishman scrambled a five after hacking his third shot from out of the undergrowth near the green.

Westwood was still four down with four to play, but could take heart from the unlikely victory produced by Graeme McDowell from a similar position.

McDowell was four down after seven holes against Gary Woodland and three down with three to play, but won the 16th with a par, the 17th with a birdie and was conceded the 18th as Woodland went from one greenside bunker to another.

A birdie on the first extra hole then sealed victory for McDowell, who reportedly shared a private jet from Florida to Arizona with his opponent.

There was no such escape for Luke Donald however, the 2011 winner and former world number one being thrashed 5&4 by Italy's Matteo Manassero.