Thursday, 10 May 2012
Ian Poulter  (Getty Images)
Ian Poulter (Getty Images)
Ian Poulter began The Players Championship with a sizzling seven under par 65 to set a target matched late in the day by Scot Martin Laird.

The Englishman, runner-up to Swede Henrik Stenson three years ago at Sawgrass, knocked two strokes off his previous best score on the course and described it as one of the top ten rounds of his career.

He and Laird, who kept a bogey off his card, were a stroke ahead of American Blake Adams.

As for Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood - battling for World Number One - it was a day of mixed fortunes.

McIlroy, who went top again by being in a play-off at Quail Hollow last week, was going best until he went in the water on the short 17th.

The Northern Irishman took five and finished with a 72 like Donald, who birdied the same hole, while Westwood matched Phil Mickelson's 71 with a round that included seven birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey on the seventh.

Poulter said: "I played lovely. I hit it really, really solid."

He also had nine one-putts in a row from the ninth - that helps.

"You have to hit the right shot at the right time - it's a very, very difficult course and tests you to the highest."

Laird improved his best score on the lay-out by five and put that down to his putting.

"I finally made some," the United States-based Glaswegian said. "I've always struggled before.

"I was quietly confident going out. I'm not saying I thought I would shoot seven under, but I thought I could play well."

Padraig Harrington handed in a 69, although he reckoned he scored better than he actually played.

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