Melbourne - Ian Poulter made good on his goal to
upstage fellow Briton Luke Donald at the Australian Masters, shooting a
sparkling six-under-par 65 to take a one-shot lead after the first
round on Thursday.
Both players soaked up the morning sunshine
in sublime conditions at Melbourne's Victoria Golf Club, but it was the
smartly-dressed Poulter turning the most heads as he notched seven
birdies to edge early pace-setter Ashley Hall of Australia.
World number one Donald rolled in only two birdies and struggled to
build momentum in his first professional tournament Down Under, but
displayed enough of his trademark control to finish with a blemish-free
69, four strokes behind.
Resplendent in a pair of tartan
trousers and a matching violet sweater, Poulter delighted in the short
sandbelt course that places a premium on tactics and smart iron-play.
"It's always nice to go out and play well after playing a golf course
that you have never seen before until the day before," the flamboyant
35-year-old told reporters.
"I missed a couple of greens in the wrong spots, but managed to make a couple of great up-and-downs.
"It's refreshing because a number of the courses we play week in week
out it just seems like you are taking the driver head-cover off on every
single par-four or par-five, and the odd par-three. So it's nice not to
Poulter, on a mission Down
Under to lift his 28th ranking at the end of an inconsistent year,
three-putted for his lone bogey on the par-four 11th, his second hole,
but clicked into gear with a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-four 15th.
That sparked a run of five birdies in six holes, highlighted by a
sublime bunker shot on the par-four first that cleared another sand-trap
before settling within two feet of the pin.
tips from the Melbourne sandbelt courses for his own golf architecture
ambitions, struggled on the greens and rued his failure to make hay
while the sun shone.
"Obviously a perfect day for scoring. I hit
it quite well on the back nine, my front nine, just made no putts,"
said the Englishman, who finishes the season as the first player to win
both the US and European tour money crowns in the same year.
"Two birdies, no bogeys - could have been a lot worse, could have been a little bit better. But something to build off."
Hall, a burly 28-year-old with only two minor tournament wins in the
local tour to his credit, briefly threatened to steal both the Britons'
thunder with a barnstorming 29 on his first nine holes, but stumbled
with a bogey and a double-bogey in his last five.
Appleby shrugged off a twinge in his lower back to card a one-under 70,
while former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy was a further shot adrift
after a scratchy 71.
Italian teenager Matteo Manassero, the youngest winner on the European Tour, is 11 off the pace after struggling to a 76.
First round scores from the
Australian Masters at the par-71, 6297-metre Victoria Golf Club course
in Melbourne on Thursday (Australian unless stated):
65 - Ian Poulter (ENG)
66 - Ashley Hall
67 - Mahal Pearce (NZL), Peter Lonard, Matthew Griffin, Kieran Pratt, Jarrod Lyle, Matthew Giles
68 - Rod Pampling, Richard Green
- Gareth Paddison (NZL), Phil Tataurangi (NZL), Luke Donald (ENG),
Gavin Coles, Brendan Jones, Greg Chalmers, Nathan Green, Peter Senior,
James Nitties, Matt Stieger
70 - David Smail (NZL), Steven
Bowditch, Luke Hickmott, Leigh McKechnie, Marcus Fraser, Stuart Appleby,
Kurt Barnes, Jeff Maggert (USA), Cameron Percy, John Senden, Rohan
71 - Steve Jones, Brad Kennedy, Brent McCullough, Michael
Hendry (NZL), Geoff Ogilvy, Brett Rumford, Neven Basic, Peter Fowler,
Doug R Holloway (NZL), Peter Tomasulo (USA).
72 - Michael Campbell (NZL)
73 - Will Strickler (USA), Robert Allenby
74 - Byron Meth (USA)
76 - Matteo Manassero (ITA)