Ian Poulter produced a battling display to defeat Luke Donald 2 and 1 in the final of the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Casares, Spain on Sunday.
In a match opposing two Englishmen and European Ryder Cup stars, Poulter fell behind early and at times was clinging on grimly, but he finished the stronger as Donald saw his normally reliable putting touch desert him.
It was Poulter’s 11th win on the European Tour and it will put him up to 15th in the world rankings ending a prolonged slump in his form.
The defeat was a huge blow for Donald who would have become the world number one for the first time in his career, replacing Lee Westwood, had he won.
“It is pretty special. I had a look at the names on the trophy and I thought it is (son) Luke’s birthday today and he is seven and I just thought it would be pretty special to put my name on the list of winners,” said Poulter who had to play 108 holes in his six matches en route to the title.
“There were a lot of questions being asked of me in the first five months of the year. I didn’t play my best today but managed to hole some putts and got away with it. That’s what you have to do in this game.”
Donald started the final as a slight favourite having enjoyed a smoother and less tiring run into the final than Poulter and he was soon ahead as Poulter bogeyed the second.
But it was back to level pegging two holes later after Donald’s drive finished on rocks by the green and he was forced to take a penalty drop.
Poulter then went one up at the fifth before Donald sank a 25-footer at the next hole to restore parity.
After going round the turn level in what was a surprisingly scrappy contest, Donald again went one up at the 10th, but a couple of missed putts prevented him from breaking clear and the dogged Poulter made him pay by winning the 12th and 14th with birdies to take the lead.
Donald’s uncustomary problems on the greens continued when he missed a four-footer at the 15th which would have put him level and with the confidence seeping out of his opponent Poulter pounced to move two up with two to play at the next.
The conclusion came at the par-three 17th where Poulter needed two putts from the edge of the green to par and win the title.
He left his first effort way short, but then sunk a nervy six-footer for one of the biggest wins of his career.
A dismayed Donald said that it had been a disappointing way to lose by playing so poorly.
“I would not have minded losing if I played well. It will leave a sour taste in the mouth, but I will move on next week. I just ran out of steam.”