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Poulter in contention at Sawgrass

FIRST ROUND LEADERBOARD (GB & Ireland unless stated):
-7 B Crane (US) -6 A Cejka (Ger), R Johnson (Swe), J Mallinger (US) -5 B Adamonis (US), J Byrd (US), R Goosen (Rsa), J Byrd (US), I Poulter, D Toms (US), S Verplank (US)

Ian Poulter
Poulter has shown good form in recent weeks in the United States

Briton Ian Poulter made an impressive start to the prestigious Players Championship at Sawgrass to finish just two shots behind the leader Ben Crane.

Poulter shot a five-under 67 to move into a tie for third after round one.

Six birdies pushed Poulter to the top of the leaderboard at one stage, before he closed out his round by saving par at the notoriously difficult 18th.

Poulter was four ahead of Tiger Woods, with Padraig Harrington on 72, while Phil Mickelson carded a one-over 73.

Germany's Alex Cejka, Sweden's Richard Johnson and American John Mallinger were all on 66 - one shot behind Crane.

Poulter, who swapped putters recently, needed just 26 putts in his opening round.

"I changed to a putter two weeks ago that the ball comes off a bit slower and the greens have been very quick the past couple of weeks and I just feel good," said Poulter, who tied for fifth at last week's Quail Hollow Championship.

"I've played one week on, one week off until just after the Masters, so it's been hard to get into a routine.

"But my game's been in shape since then and I felt it was only a matter of time."

While Poulter was pleased with his putting at Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida, Woods was altogether less happy with his form on the greens.


"I didn't hit good putts," said the world number one. "My speed was off early, then I got my speed down at the end and I kept lipping out putts. I just need to obviously read them better or hit better putts, one of the two."

English pair Justin Rose and Paul Casey shot two-under-par 70s, while defending champion Sergio Garcia got off to a strong start off the 10th tee and was out in three-under-par.

But the Spaniard, who landed the biggest victory of his career over the Stadium Course 12 months ago, amassed a double-bogey five at the 8th to come home in 38 to finish one under.

"I think it's been a while since I hit the ball that badly, but I don't know, I'll find a way," said Garcia, who is bidding to become the first player in the tournament's 35-year history to successfully defend his title.

Scotland's Martin Laird and Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland also finished with 71s but McDowell's countryman Rory McIlroy suffered a baptism of fire over the closing holes at Sawgrass.

Having birdied the par-five 16th to go to two under, the 20-year-old treble-bogeyed the par-three 17th island hole and then bogeyed the 18th to finish at two over with a 74.

Fiji's Vijay Singh and England's Brian Davis also shot 71, while South African Ernie Els carded 73 and Luke Donald and Ross Fisher took 74.

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see also
Woods eyes Sawgrass improvement
05 May 09 |  Golf
Garcia snatches play-off victory
12 May 08 |  Golf

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