- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

MARANA, ARIZ. (AP) - Ian Poulter certainly felt like the defending champion at the Match Play Championship. He is featured prominently on the cover of the program. His name and picture is on banners along with other World Golf Championship winners. There even was a Facebook promotion in which fans picked his outfits for the week.

Those feelings ended, however, when Poulter looked at the starting times.

Poulter plays Stewart Cink in the first of 32 matches Wednesday, on the tee at 7:25 a.m. MST with a chill in the air.

“I was a little surprised,” Poulter said. “I wasn’t expecting to be out first. I mean, 7:25, defending champion. How many people are going to be through the gates at 7:00 in the morning?”


He said that during his press conference. But what was his initial reaction?

“You don’t know what to know,” he said, although he soon obliged _ “Holy … is that what time I’m off?”

Nothing personal, Poults.

The starting times are based strictly by the player’s seeding and his location in the bracket. The No. 12 seed overall has been the leadoff match every year since the Accenture Match Play Championship moved to Arizona in 2007.

Poulter is the No. 12 seed.

“I mean, it was early, you know?” Poulter said. “It’s cold. I’m a Floridian, come on!”

Tiger Woods is the only player to successfully defend in the Match Play Championship. Geoff Ogilvy came close, losing in the championship match to Henrik Stenson in 2007.

Three defending champions have been eliminated in the first round, all in the first three years of the tournament _ Jeff Maggert, Darren Clarke and Steve Stricker. Maggert holds the dubious distinction of having the shortest tenure as the defending champion. He only made it 13 holes before losing to Bob Tway in 2000.

A British reporter jokingly suggested that Poulter could have the shortest defense by the clock. His match could end by 11 a.m.

“Could be on an airplane by mid-afternoon, I guess,” Poulter said. “Thanks for that. I hadn’t really thought about that until you just mentioned it, but thanks, well done. I’d rather be having a nice salmon for a starter and filet steak for dinner tomorrow night.”

___

Story Continues →