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Ian Poulter joint leader after first round in Abu Dhabi

FIRST ROUND LEADERBOARD:
-7 I Poulter (Eng), R Bland (Eng), K Horne (SA) Selected others: -6 R McIlroy (NI), S Garcia (Spa), Pa Lawrie (Sco) -5 M Kaymer (Ger) -3 L Westwood (Eng) -2 H Stenson (Swe), D Clarke (NI), G McDowell (NI) -1 C Villegas (Col) level MA Jimenez (Spa), G Ogilvy (Aus), P Casey (Eng) +1 C Montgomerie (Sco)

Ian Poulter
Poulter is ranked 12th in the world

England's Ian Poulter carded a seven-under-par 65 for a share of the lead after the first round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

Poulter, fellow Englishman Richard Bland and South African Keith Horne are one stroke ahead of a group of nine players on six under par.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy is one of them, as is Spain's Sergio Garcia, who had not played since November.

European number one Lee Westwood is three under par.

Poulter, who holed a 70-foot putt on the final green, admitted he was hungry to compete after a six-week Christmas break.

606: DEBATE

He said: "I wasn't expecting to come out quite as fast, but I'll take it - I hit it lovely. I started practising on Tuesday and I didn't feel 70% let alone the way it was today.

"I put an extra session in on Tuesday and Wednesday, my hands were raw and sore. I've done an awful lot of hard work and it definitely paid off. I hit my irons very solid and I holed some nice putts.

"One of my goals at the start of the year was to hole more 20-foot putts which I haven't done a lot of. They dried up on the back nine a little, but there was a little bonus on the last."

World number 13 Garcia is still struggling with the hand injury he picked up at the end of last year, but recovered from back-to-back bogeys early in his round by picking up seven shots in 10 holes around the turn.

"It didn't look great for the first four holes, but I played fairly well and it is definitely a good comeback," said the Spaniard, who has dropped to 13th in the world.

"There are still a couple of shots I need to fix, there's obviously a little bit of rust still in my body, but overall, I think it was a good comeback and a good solid round to start the week with."

World number 10 McIlroy, who want sot break into the world's top five this year, declared himself "very happy" despite a double bogey at the 11th.

"Apart from that one loose tee shot it was really good," said McIlroy, who finished second behind Westwood in last season's Race to Dubai rankings.

"I made a lot of birdies and converted a lot of my chances. So any time you open up a tournament with a 66 you've got to be happy."

Former Open champion Paul Lawrie also carded a 66, the Scotsman finishing a bogey-free round with three consecutive birdies.

Former champion and last year's runner up Martin Kaymer dropped just one shot in a five under 67.

Germany's Ryder Cup contender is set to play the entire 2010 season with plates and screws in his foot which were inserted after a go-karting accident last year.



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see also
Golf on the BBC
01 Jul 11 |  Golf
Garcia set to return in Abu Dhabi
19 Jan 10 |  Golf
Garcia worried about hand injury
29 Dec 09 |  Golf
Westwood gets European Tour award
08 Dec 09 |  Golf
Injury forces Casey to skip Dubai
14 Nov 09 |  Golf
Casey forced to quit in Shanghai
08 Nov 09 |  Golf


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