Ian Poulter roared into the first-round lead at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and admitted he was determined to improve on his frustrating record in the event
Ian Poulter enjoyed a superb start to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational as he fired a flawless eight-under 62 to claim the outright lead after day one in Akron.
Poulter has two WGC titles in his collection but has never finished higher the 13th at Firestone Country Club, but he put himself in pole position in the final staging of the event after his eight-birdie effort in near perfect conditions.
The Englishman ended the round one stroke clear of Rickie Fowler and Kyle Stanley, while Rory McIlroy (65) and Tiger Woods (66) also made encouraging starts as 45 of the elite 71-player field broke the par of 70.
Poulter began at the 10th and birdied his first two holes from six feet before nailing a 20-footer for another gain at the short 14th, and he picked up further shots at 16 and 17 to cover the back nine in just 30 blows.
The 42-year-old clipped a delightful approach to within two feet at the first and two-putted from 40 feet at the next to make it four birdies in five holes and, after missing a great chance on the next green, he converted another solid iron to inside 10 feet for his eighth gain of the day at the sixth.
Poulter scrambled pars from greenside bunkers at two of his final three holes to return a 62, just one outside the course record, and he admitted afterwards that he was “fired up” by his disappointing record in the tournament.
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“All in all, a very decent start to the week,” he said. “I looked at my stats this morning, which were terrible. My overall stats on this golf course have not been good. T13 is as good as it’s been, which is surprising. So, with that in mind, I needed to get off to a decent start, and we’ll see if we can finish ahead of T13 this time.
“It fires me up. I mean, it’s frustrating to look at. I actually thought I had a better finish than that, so it really annoyed me. For some reason I thought I finished second here before, but I didn’t know how mistaken I was when I looked at all the numbers.
“I wrote them all down, they were that bad. I was like, ‘seriously, how can you play a good golf course this many times and not really have a result?’ So not to even finish in the top 10 is pretty poor.”
2:51 Rory McIlroy gets hot at Firestone
Fowler also kept a bogey off his card and enjoyed a run of four birdies in five holes on the front nine as he closed on seven under alongside long-time clubhouse leader Stanley, who made six birdies in a sparking back-nine 29.
Jon Rahm responded to his only bogey of the day at the seventh – his 16th – with his seventh birdie at the ninth to post an impressive 64 which was matched by Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay, while McIlroy was one further back along with fellow former world No 1s Jason Day and Justin Thomas.
McIlroy defied an errant drive to hand in a five-birdie card that was also blemish free, while Woods was on the same score until dropping his only shot of the day following a bunkered drive on his final hole.
The eight-time champion was joined on four under by English stars Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Fitzpatrick as well as US Open champion Brooks Koepka, long-time rival Phil Mickelson and Masters winner Patrick Reed.
Hideki Matsuyama, who fired a stunning 61 to win by five shots last year, opened the defence of his title with a solid 67, but world No 1 Dustin Johnson (69) and Open champion Francesco Molinari (70) have ground to make up over the remaining 54 holes.