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Ian Poulter and Luke Donald crash out of Match Play

Former champions Ian Poulter and Luke Donald bowed out in the first stage of the WGC World Match Play at Dove Mountain in Arizona, USA, while Rory McIlroy remains in contention.

Poulter won the event in 2010 but found himself three down after seven holes against Rickie Fowler, losing 2&1. Luke Donald lost 5&4 to Matteo Manassero to end his attempts at clawing his way back from 21st in the World Rankings.

There was no such drama for Rory McIlroy, however, who defeated Boo Weekley 3&2. But he was denied the opportunity for a mouth-watering encounter with Lee Westwood as the Englishman was thrashed 5&3 by Harris English.

Poulter, currently sitting as world number 15, suffered his third first-round exit in four years.

After the opening three holes were halved, Fowler won three of the next four and needed only one birdie to do so. Poulter won the 14th with a birdie from 18ft as world number 56 Fowler missed from much closer, but birdie chances went awry on the next three holes to seal his fate and another early shower.

After his elimination Poulter was quick to acknowledge his congratulations to Rickie Fowler via his Twitter feed, writing: "Disappointed with my performance today, did not deserve to move on. Congrats to Rickie Fowler."

Donald won the WCG Match Play in 2011 but found his fortunes running dry this time out as he was five down to 20-year-old Manassero, who resides at 50th in the world, after 10 holes of play.

Westwood was five down after 11 when he took on 24-year-old Harris English, dropping out in disappointing fashion.

Elsewhere there was better news for former US Open champion Graeme McDowell as he produced a superb fightback to defeat American Gary Woodland at the first extra hole.