Poulter takes early lead

2011-12-15 07:32

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 do that."

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.

Donald, seeking 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.

Holder Stuart 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

69 - 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 Blizard

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).

Selected scores:

72 - Michael Campbell (NZL)

73 - Will Strickler (USA), Robert Allenby

74 - Byron Meth (USA)

76 - Matteo Manassero (ITA)