Poulter claims early lead

5/17/2012 12:59:03 PM
Ian Poulter  (Getty Images)
Ian Poulter (Getty Images)
Defending champion Ian Poulter struck first against Australian John Senden when the Volvo World Match Play Championship began in Spain.

The Englishman produced a birdie at the long third, while Alvaro Quiros hooked his opening drive and double-bogeyed the hole to fall one down to fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia.

For perhaps the first time in a top professional event of the modern era a player teed off with only 11 clubs in his bag. The player in question was American Brandt Snedeker - and yet he won the first three holes against Dane Thomas Björn in the opening group games at Finca Cortesin.

What prompted the situation was the delay in arrival of Snedeker's normal set en route from Florida.

He had been forced to practice with different clubs, but as his lunchtime start against Björn approached he was told the others had arrived at Malaga Airport an hour away and were being driven to the course.

The decision to go with only 11 was because Snedeker wanted to add certain clubs once they arrived to get back up to the maximum 14 allowed.

Björn, returning to the game after a virus kept him out of the last two events on the US PGA Tour, gifted his opponent a three-up lead in the 18-hole clash by bogeying the first three.

And even when the former Ryder Cup player birdied the fourth Snedeker matched it.

Snedeker won the fifth and sixth holes as well - one with birdie, one with par - to be five up already, while Poulter remained one up at the same point.

Swede Peter Hanson won the third with an eagle against Scot Paul Lawrie, but the former Open Champion levelled with a birdie on the next and Garcia, having bogeyed the second, went ahead of Quiros again by making four at the 541 yard third.

The 24-strong field had been split into eight groups of three. The bottom eight seeds, based on the Official World Golf Ranking, were not involved on the opening day but will play twice on Friday to see who progresses to the last 16 knock-out stage.

Graeme McDowell, who beat Rory McIlroy to reach the quarter-finals last year, fell one down when last year's Masters Tournament champion Charl Schwartzel birdied the first.

Snedeker, whose clubs had arrived on the fourth tee, lost the long eighth to a birdie, but returned to five ahead by holing a 12 foot putt on the next.

Poulter, who had saved a half on the fourth after driving into the lake, also birdied the ninth to double his advantage, while Justin Rose, the second seed, won the first three holes against fellow Englishman Robert Rock.

Top seed Martin Kaymer, however, instantly fell one down to Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello.