Andalucia, Spain – Ian Poulter and Brandt Snedeker both earned big wins on Thursday at the Volvo World Match Play Championship.
Poulter, the defending champion, collected a 3 & 2 win over John Senden in the first match of the opening round at Finca Cortesin Golf Club.
Snedeker, the lone American in the field, won seven of the first 10 holes en route to a dominating 5 & 4 victory against Thomas Bjorn.
Justin Rose also cruised to a big win as he took down Robert Rock, 7 & 6. Sergio Garcia made a late rally to best fellow Spaniard Alvaro Quiros, 2 & 1.
Former British Open champion Paul Lawrie caught fire down the stretch to earn a 2 & 1 win over Peter Hanson. Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champ, claimed two of the last three holes to beat Robert Karlsson, 1-up.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello earned the most impressive win of the day as he bested top-seed Martin Kaymer, 3 & 2. Charl Schwartzel birdied the final hole to halve his match with Nicolas Colsaerts.
Poulter collected just two wins on the front nine as he birdied the third and ninth to move 2-up around the turn. After Poulter took the 12th with a par, Senden earned his only win with a birdie at the 14th.
Last year's champ pushed his lead back to 3-up with a birdie on No. 15. The duo halved the 16th giving Poulter the match. They will both play Tom Lewis on Friday.
"I said John was going to be a very steady opponent, and he was on front nine. I think he made nine straight pars," Poulter stated. "It doesn't matter if you are not hitting good shots. If you believe you can hit the next shot good, and hole the next putt, then it doesn't make any difference."
Snedeker won five of the first six holes with three pars and two birdies. Bjorn won the eighth and 11th, but Snedeker won nine and 10 with birdies of his own. The pair halved three straight holes from the 12th giving Snedeker the win. On Friday, both will battle Branden Grace.
Rose birdied four of the first five holes to go 4-up. He also won No. 6 with a bogey and the eighth with a birdie to push his lead to 6-up through eight.
Rock, who beat Tiger Woods earlier this year in Abu Dhabi, finally got on the board with a birdie on No. 9, but Rose answered with a birdie on 11 and a par on 12 to close out his easy win. Those two will play British Open champion Darren Clarke on Friday.
Garcia won the first and third, but Quiros took the second with a par. Quiros birdied the seventh to square the match.
Quiros grabbed the lead with a birdie at the 10th. Garcia started his rally with a birdie on the 13th. He parred the 14th to reclaim a 1-up lead, then birdied the par-three 17th to seal the win. Garcia and Quiros will face Tetsuji Hiratsuka in their second match.
Hanson and Lawrie both had two wins in the first seven holes. Lawrie's double- bogey on the seventh handed Hanson a 1-up lead. The pair halved the next four holes before Lawrie took the 13th with a par.
Lawrie birdied the 16th and 17th to earn the victory. On Friday, they will both battle Camilo Villegas.
Karlsson was conceded the second and third to grab a 1-up lead. McDowell caught fire after five straight halves. McDowell birdied three in a row from the ninth to go from 2-down to 1-up.
After two halves, Karlsson reclaimed the lead with a birdie on 14 and a par on the 15th. However, McDowell birdied the 16th and 18th earn the win. They'll both play Jbe Kruger on Friday.
Cabrera-Bello won three of the first five holes. Kaymer got on the board with a birdie on the sixth to get it back to 2-down. They traded wins at 10 and 11 before Cabrera-Bello pushed his lead back to 3-up with a par on the 12th.
Kaymer had several chances to trim the margin, but his putter failed him. After four halves, the match went to Cabrera-Bello. They will both play Richard Finch on Friday.
In the final match to finish, Schwartzel birdied the first to go 1-up. They halved the next six holes, before trading wins on the eighth and ninth. Colsaerts parred the 12th square the match.
Colsaerts was conceded the 15th, but Schwartzel fought back to halve the match with a birdie on the 18th. On Friday, they both battle two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen.
NOTES: Goosen, whose best finish was a tie for third, is the only player in the field that played this event more than two times prior to this year...The top two players from each of the eight groups will advance to the round of 16, which will take place on Saturday, as will the quarterfinals...The semifinals and finals are both slated for Sunday.