The Euros may be pals at the Ryder Cup, but the Volvo Match Play is a cutthroat business

The Euros may be pals at the Ryder Cup, but the Volvo Match Play is a cutthroat business

Lee Westwood, left, lost to Ian Poulter on Saturday morning.
Warren Little/Getty Images

CASARES, Spain — The Plodder versus The Germanator. England versus Germany. World No. 2 versus World No. 3.

Get ready for a heavyweight semifinal between Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer on Sunday morning at the Volvo World Match Play in Spain, and the winner will be just one more victory away from knocking Lee Westwood off his No.1 spot.

“I know Luke doesn’t make any mistakes. You have to make birdies to win holes,” Kaymer said from bitter experience, having lost to Donald in the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February. “It would be a great feeling to be No. 1 after the weekend, but Luke deserves it, too.”

To set up his revenge date with Donald, Kaymer first had to get past his best mate on tour, Alvaro Quiros, in their quarterfinal match as huge crowds trooped after the Spaniard in his homeland.

“Vamos!” yelled one senor from the gallery.

Quiros duly obliged. Unfortunately it was into a courtesy car and off the property, rather than into the semifinal. Kaymer won by two holes. Luke Donald’s wife, Diane, tweeted that “Kaymer just drew his finger across his throat to Quiros in player dining. So funny!” Quiros’ response: “We’ll see! We’ll see!” Friends they may be, but match play is a cutthroat business.

Donald extended his unbeaten run in match play to 11 matches, starting with his singles victory against Jim Furyk at the 2010 Ryder Cup. At first, he struggled to shake off Johan Edfors. The Swede just would not back down. It was a case of “May the Edfors be with you, Luke” in this European star wars. Donald finally zapped Edfors at the first extra hole having been 2-down with three to play. Donald then fought off Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, winning by 2 holes.

“Hopefully I’m starting to be intimidating to my opponents,” Donald said. However, he expects Kaymer to “have more in his tank” than he did in Tucson.

“I suppose I have the upper hand psychologically. But he wants revenge, too,” Donald said, who is suffering from a sore throat.

“Is it Luke Donald Disease?” asked a cheeky reporter, alluding to a label an American reporter once put on Donald for failing to turn a plethora of top 10 checks into more victories.

Amid much laughter, Donald chuckled, paused for thought, and replied, smiling: “If it’s brought on by hard work and belief, then yes it is the Luke Donald Disease.”

The other semifinal will see Ian Poulter trying to beat Niclas Colsaerts. The 28-year-old Colsaerts won the China Open last month and has been the Belgian dark horse in Spain. He progressed to the semifinal with victories over Retief Goosen, Jhonattan Vegas and finally Graeme McDowell. McDowell beat his pal Rory McIlroy 3 & 2 in a Round of 16 match that had an intriguing edge to it. McIlroy made McDowell hole three early putts, none of which was longer than three feet. There was little chat, and the handshake at the end was one of etiquette rather than friendship. Tough business, this match play stuff.

McIlroy explained his tactics after the match. “Yeah, you can’t really give anyone anything,” he said. “I wasn’t really going to engage in any conversation. It looked like he had the same plan.”

McDowell was gracious in victory. “Yeah, I’ve got bragging rights until next time,” he said. “But Rory is going to be winning multiple tournaments for the next 10, 15 years.”

Poulter reached his semifinal by coming back from 2 down to win the last four holes against Francesco Molinari. But it was his 1-up victory against Lee Westwood that was the most impressive. The Ryder Cup teammates shared a barbecue on the eve of their morning match, and there seemed to be some spicy sauce left over. A disappointed Westwood was 19-under-par for the week and going home, but he was perhaps harsh in the critique of the quality of Poulter’s game.

“Well, you know, when you play Ian, you know he’s not going to hit it great, but he’s going to make a lot of birdies and get up-and-down from everywhere,” Westwood said.

Poulter had a recent spat with Johnny Miller after the TV commentator said that the Englishman is a poor ball-striker, but he refused to get drawn into one with Westwood, whom he likes and respects.

“I’m not going to get into a tennis match with Lee,” Poulter said. “I hit three bad shots in that whole round. Every other shot I hit lovely.”

Continual criticism of his workman-like swing is something Poulter, who won the 2010 Accenture Match Play, is becoming accustomed to. “I’m not really bothered,” he said. “I don’t care. Lee will be very frustrated about being 19 under par through 45 holes. I would be, too.

“I guess I’m annoying to play against in match play.” Poulter smiled. “So whether I flush it, or slightly miss-hit a few shots, I rely on my short game. I wouldn’t mind playing match play about six times a year.”