Singapore - Flamboyant Englishman Ian Poulter bounced back from a six-week break to take a one-stroke clubhouse lead at the rain-hit Barclays Singapore Open on Thursday, with Ernie Els hot on his heels.
Poulter fired a five-under-par 66 to be one ahead of the veteran South African and little-known Taiwanese player Chan Yih-Shin in the European and Asian Tour co-sanctioned event.
Also safely home one shot further back was a trio led by Japan's Kodai Ichihara, Denmark's Anders Hansen and Frenchman Thomas Levet.
World number two Phil Mickelson was three off the pace after mixing three bogeys, three birdies and an eagle in his 69.
But it was a day marred by rain which lashed the Sentosa Golf Club course all afternoon and when lightning started flashing the players were called in.
Play was suspended for three hours, preventing 78 players from finishing, including Padraig Harrington (par after 10) and Geoff Ogilvy (one under after nine).
Poulter made the most of perfect morning conditions, surprising even himself having not played since the BMW Championship, opting to rest ahead of Singapore and a seven-tournament run to the end of his season.
It was in sharp contrast to last year here, when he departed without hitting a shot after his driver was stolen in Shanghai and a replacement did not arrive in time.
Els, whose world ranking has slumped to 22, its lowest in 15 years after a win drought stretching back to the Honda Classic last year, stayed in touch with a fighting bogey-free 67.
The 40-year-old has won a tournament every year since he turned professional in 1989 except this year, and he is desperate to keep the impressive run going.
With just three events left in his season, Singapore appears to be his best chance. He has always done well here, finishing joint second behind winner Jeev Milkha Singh last year.
While Poulter and Els shone, Korea's K.J. Choi slumped to a 74, unable to build on his victory last week at the Johor Open.
Joining him eight off the lead was Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Leading first round scores from the rain-hit $5 million Barclays Singapore Open at Sentosa Golf Club on Thursday. 78 players were unable to finish their round:
66 - Ian Poulter (ENG)
67 - Chan Yih-Shin (TPE), Ernie Els (RSA)
68 - Kodai Ichihara (JPN), Anders Hansen (DEN), Thomas Levet (FRA)
69 - Phil Mickelson (USA), Niclas Fasth (SWE), Soren Kjeldsen (DEN), Lam Chih Bing (SIN), Lin Wen-Tang (TPE), Jyoti Randhawa (IND)
70 - David Howell (ENG), Kenichi Kuboya (JPN), Rick Kulacz (AUS), Alexander Noren (SWE), Ted Oh (KOR), Lu Wei-Chih (TPE)
71 - Nick Redfern (ENG), Danny Lee (NZL), Peter Lawrie (IRL), Graeme McDowell (IRL), Jean-Francois Lucquin (FRA), Scott Barr (AUS)
73 - Paul McGinley (IRL), Thongchai Jaidee (THA)
74 - Miguel Angel Jimenez (ESP), KJ Choi (KOR)
76 - Michael Campbell (NZL)