First round leaderboard: -7 M Kuchar (US) -6 R Moore (US) -5 I Poulter (GB) -4 R Goosen (SA), C Wi (SKo)
Selected others: -3 J Rose (Eng), L Donald (Eng) -2 P Casey (Eng) +2 T Woods (US), B Davis (Eng), M Laird (Sco) +5 R McIlroy (NI)
Poulter rallied to finish well after a disastrous start
Ian Poulter recovered from a double-bogey six at the 10th hole to end the first round of the FedEx Cup in Chicago only two shots off the pace.
Having begun at the ninth, the 34-year-old recovered with an eagle and six birdies in a five-under-par 66 to end up just two behind leader Matt Kuchar.
Justin Rose and Luke Donald were also well-placed after 68s, but Tiger Woods struggled to a two-over 72.
However, he fared better than Rory McIlroy, whose 76 left him joint 64th.
With places in the prestigious Tour Championship in a fortnight's time still up for grabs, there was plenty at stake when play got under way at Cog Hill.
And Poulter, who may need a top-seven finish to qualify for the 30-man field in Atlanta, did superbly to hold his nerve after a poor start at the 386-yard 10th where he found himself in a bunker after two shots, then over-shot the green and missed a four-foot put.
"It was a bit of a kick in the teeth," the Englishman said. "I was glad it was a long walk from the green to the 11th tee. I calmed down pretty quickly and turned a poor mindset into a good one."
He was also delighted to produce such a good round with the Ryder Cup less than a month away.
"I was trying to get in that kind of mindset, making as many birdies as I did in the Ryder Cup last time around. If you can somehow get into that frame of mind that anything is possible you can make 10 birdies in a round of golf," Poulter added.
Kuchar will be one of Poulter's possible opponents at Celtic Manor when Europe try to win the Cup back from the United States and he shrugged off flu symptoms to shoot a magnificent 64 on the course where he won the US amateur title 13 years ago.
Like Poulter, he eagled the long 15th, and he also had six birdies on his card to lead by one from fellow American Ryan Moore.
"I've got good memories of this place, so it continued to go well for me. Last week was a little bit suspect and this week I kind of figured some stuff out, hitting the ball solid and making some putts," he said.
But it was another difficult day for world number one Woods, who was given one of four Ryder Cup wildcards by US skipper Corey Pavin earlier this week.
He began with a double bogey and then mixed three birdies with three bogeys to find himself in 4th place, but only one behind Phil Mickelson, who needs to either win the title or finish second to replace Woods at the top of the rankings.