By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
MARANA, Ariz. -- This battle of former Accenture Match Play Championship winners didn't disappoint.
Ian Poulter put a damper on Steve Stricker's 46th birthday, though, as he pulled away in the middle of the round for his 24th vicory in 33 matches in this global event.
Poulter actually made his first -- and only bogey -- in his last three matches at No. 1 as Stricker was in the process of making birdie there to go 1 up. The Englishman got back on track quickly, though, as he rolled in birdie putts of 5 and 40 feet on the next two holes to take the lead the bulldog would not relinquish.
While Poulter was sizing up that 40-footer, Stricker actually was looking at his own 7-footer for birdie at the third hole to possibly win it himself.
"Steve is always a tough person to beat, and he was going to play some good golf today," Poulter said. "That's exactly what he did. I managed to keep my nose in front, I guess, with a typical match play swing on the par-3 third hole. It looks like Steve is going to be going up right there, and I hole, he misses. And from then on I sort of took over and got myself in front."
Poulter holed a chip at the sixth hole for a 2-up lead and then drained a 25-footer for eagle at the par-5 eighth to go one better. Stricker's 4-footer for birdie at the 10th hole narrowed the gap to 2 down but Poulter responded with two consecutive birdies to take a 4-up lead.
A conceded birdie at the 14th hole gave Stricker a glimmer of hope at 3 down but the next two holes were halved with a birdie and a par and Poulter was on to the next round.
SCORECARD STATS: Poulter made six birdies, one eagle and one bogey. Stricker made four birdies and one bogey.
HOLES WON: Poulter won six holes. Stricker won three holes.
NEXT OPPONENT: Poulter plays Hunter Mahan, who beat Webb Simpson 1 up in the quarterfinals.