MARANA, Ariz. — Ian Poulter equaled the shortest match of the tournament to reach the final of the Match Play Championship. He won’t know who he plays until Sunday because the longest match didn’t finish.
Paul Casey and Camilo Villegas, neither of whom had gone the distance all week at Dove Mountain, exchanged a series of great shots and clutch putts through 23 holes Saturday until twilight in the high desert made it too difficult to continue.
They were to return first thing in the morning to see who gets to face Poulter and a chance at the $1.4 million prize.
The final stroke of a long day belonged to Villegas, a 28-year-old Colombian, who had a 3-foot par putt on the 14th hole to win the match. He pushed it badly to the right, giving Casey an unlikely reprieve.
“I should have made that putt,” Villegas said.
On the previous hole, Villegas hit a remarkable bunker shot from 50 yards that stopped 2 feet from the hole for a conceded birdie, only for Casey to knocked it a 6-foot birdie to extend the match.
Villegas also escaped trouble on the par-5 11th when he blasted out of a desert bush, hammered a fairway metal onto the green and halved the hole with a par.
“If I had to get up early, I wanted to be in the final. I didn’t want to be continuing a semifinal,” said Casey, who reached the championship match last year only to lose to Geoff Ogilvy. “One of us has to be in the final. And both of us want to be there.”
Some three hours earlier, Poulter closed out Sergio Garcia on the 12th hole, 7 and 6.
Poulter was in his room at the Ritz-Carlton, waiting to find out his opponent before taking a hot bath. The match was so long that he wound up taking the bath and then getting a massage. He posted on Twitter, “laying on the massage table having some treatment getting ready for tomorrow, cant believe they are still out there.”
Even more surprising is that they have to return at 7:10 a.m. to continue, the first time a semifinal match carried into Sunday.