Rory McIlroy has that sinking feeling; thrashed by Ian Poulter in Texas

Out-of-sorts Northern Irishman hits ball in swimming pool during 6&5 defeat on opening morning of WGC Dell Technologies Match Play tournament

Bereft of confidence and trying to bed in new swing changes, Rory McIlroy would surely not have chosen to play Ian Poulter in his opening match at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas on Wednesday.

Perhaps predictably, the cocktail proved a lethal one as McIlroy suffered a dizzying 6&5 defeat to the match play king, leaving his hopes of progressing out of the group looking bleak.

McIlroy went into the event at Austin Country Club having struck up a new partnership with swing guru Pete Cowen.

But the veteran English coach has tried and trusted methods rather than a magic wand and it will take time for McIlroy to implement them.

On Wednesday's evidence, there has been no quick fix.

As the four-time Major winner tried to bed in changes, one wayward drive ended up in a swimming pool in a property adjacent to the fifth hole.

That embarrassing miss put McIlroy 3 down and, despite birdies at 6 and 8 reducing the deficit, Poulter won the next five holes to secure victory on the 13th green.

McIlroy can still make it out of the group that also contains Cameron Smith and Lanto Griffin but his fate now lies in the hands of others.

With the year's first Major at Augusta National looming large, McIlroy's technical struggles are a concern.

He's currently 14/1 with Paddy Power to win The Masters and complete the career Grand Slam.

But of all those at the front of the betting, he's the one it's getting hard to make a convincing case for.

For now, his focus is on this tournament and McIlroy is 8/11 with Paddy Power to win his next match against Griffin on Thursday.

Poulter on match and Rory's performance

"I played well and the scoreline's pretty flattering to be honest with you.

"But I kept Rory under pressure and I made it difficult for him. He hit a couple of loose shots but putting the ball in pretty tight and taking control of the match, I had to do that against Rory.

"I think there's a couple of areas of his game which I'm sure he wants to firm up a little bit. Obviously he missed a couple of tee shots left. He was trying to hit a kind of hold-up cut.

"But it's Rory, it doesn't take a lot for Rory to spark up pretty quickly and I wasn't surprised with anything. I just felt that I had done a pretty decent job of putting him under pressure. I made it difficult for him."

Poulter on why he loves match play

"I kind of like the shit or bust attitude, to be honest with you.

"It gets the adrenaline going, the ticker starts going. You got to pony up and hit shots, right?

"It's just one of those, you have to hit shots. This is that golf course where you're going to make mistakes, hazards everywhere, tricky pin positions, it was just try and keep the foot down."

After his impressive opening win, Poulter is 35/1 with Paddy Power to win the WGC Dell Match Play

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