Rampant Clarke Leads Home Run; Poulter and Harrington Also in Next Round

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Byline: DEREK LAWRENSON

IAN POULTER, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke will all line up in this morning's quarterfinals of the Accenture Matchplay Championship after fruitful days at La Costa.

In what is proving quite a tournament for British and Irish golf, all three delivered command performances in winning their second and third-round matches yesterday. Clarke, winner in 2000, once more showed his liking for the event by claiming a last-eight berth for the third time in five years.

Poulter, by contrast, is playing for the first time, while Harrington, 32, had previously not been beyond the second round.

Englishman Poulter polished off Duffy Waldorf before lunch before beating another American, John Huston, in the afternoon by 2&1.

Harrington also beat two Americans, Estes and the redoubtable David Toms, who recovered from three down at one point, only to be undone by a masterful birdie two at the 16th from Europe's No 1-rated golfer. Harrington won by one hole and will now play Tiger Woods, who beat Fredrik Jacobson 5&4.

Poulter is guaranteed a cheque for $225,000, and considerable progress towards a place in September's Ryder Cup team is assured. He plays Australian Stephen Leaney, who defeated Colin Montgomerie by one hole.

Clarke beat first Alex Cejka and then rolled in a glorious 45ft putt at the 16th to see off American Kenny Perry. The morning's second round could not have gone better for the four British and Irish survivors who demolished their respective opposition.

Monty played like it was the Ryder Cup, while Clarke, Poulter and Harrington were all inspired. Bearing in mind this is the event where Clarke is usually the only British or Irish player who is not at home with his feet up by this stage, it was quite something.

Monty was compiling his finest round for 14 barren months. The Scot averaged a birdie every other hole to thrash Stewart Cink, who must have wondered whether this was the same man who has so frequently slunk away from this venue in the past.

'This was, without a doubt, the best I've played here,' Montgomerie confirmed after his 6&4 triumph. 'Seven birdies and no bogeys is very good golf indeed.' Clarke and Poulter did not need to be anything like as good to beat Cejka or Waldorf respectively but, nonetheless, delivered textbook matchplay golf. …