Published May 10, 2012
| Sports Network
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL – Ian Poulter and Martin Laird both fired rounds of seven-under 65 on Thursday to share the first-round lead of The Players Championship.
Blake Adams is alone in third after a six-under 66 at the TPC Sawgrass.
Kevin Na and Ben Crane share fourth at five-under 67.
Tiger Woods' woes continued, both in the current state of his game, and at the TPC Sawgrass.
Woods, who missed the cut last week at the Wells Fargo Championship, struggled to a two-over 74 and has never broken 70 in the first round in 15 tries at this tournament.
"I didn't get a lot out of that round. It should have been probably one- or two-under par," said Woods, who is tied for 100th place. "Just one of those days today. I just didn't score."
Woods wasn't the only elite player who failed to get off to a good start Thursday.
Phil Mickelson, who was enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday, shot a one-under 71.
Rory McIlroy, the world No. 1, and Luke Donald, who has been trading that top ranking with McIlroy for weeks, both had even-par 72s in the opening round.
With those two battling for No. 1 in the world, it was two other Europeans that stole the spotlight in round one.
Poulter was spectacular on Thursday with the flat stick. He had nine straight one-putts and this wasn't the first time his putter performed so well.
"I can't remember where it would be, but I can recollect it," said Poulter, who one-putted every green on the back nine. "Yeah, I think I've had 21 putts in a round of golf before; back to the good old days as a junior."
On this day as a professional, Poulter broke into red figures at the par-five second when he two-putted from 30 feet. Poulter nearly holed his sand-wedge approach at the fourth, but had to settle for birdie. He missed the green from the fairway en route to a disappointing bogey at the seventh, but that was the last hiccup on Thursday.
At the ninth, Poulter kicked in a four-foot birdie putt. That started a run of four consecutive birdies, which got him to five-under par for the championship.
After three nice par saves from the 13th, Poulter got up and down from a bunker for birdie at the par-five 16th.
The Englishman hit a nine-iron to eight feet to set up birdie at the island green 17th. He poured in the putt to get to seven-under then converted a five- foot par save at the last for his share of the lead.
"It was a very, very good round of golf," said Poulter, who finished second here in 2009. "That's definitely probably in the top-10 of the rounds of golf I've ever played."
Laird started on the 10th tee Thursday and birdied 11 and 12. He made a pair of birdie putts from inside 10 feet at 16 and 17 to make the turn at four- under par.
At the par-five second, Laird rolled in a 16-footer for birdie. After a shaky drive into a bunker near water at No. 5, Laird knocked his approach to 10 feet and holed the birdie effort to get within one of Poulter's lead.
The Scotsman joined the colorful Poulter in first at the par-five ninth. He missed the green with his second, but pitched just inside six feet and ran home the birdie putt.
"To go bogey-free around here is extremely satisfying," said Laird, who was the only player in the field to go without a bogey on Thursday.
Adam Scott, the 2004 champion, reigning FedExCup champion Bill Haas, Texas Open winner Ben Curtis, Michael Thompson, Harrison Frazar, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Stadler, Jhonattan Vegas, Jonathan Byrd, Brian Davis and Sang-Moon Bae are knotted in sixth at four-under 68.
NOTES: There were several withdrawals on Thursday, although none more bizarre than D.A. Points, who lost a playoff last week at Quail Hollow. He was introduced for his tee time, but didn't hit a shot, pulling out with back spasms. Brian Harman was the first alternate, but obviously could not fill in Points' tee time, so the tour sent him out as a single before the afternoon wave started...Angel Cabrera, who hit three balls in the water en route to a nine at 17, Paul Casey, Simon Dyson and Hunter Haas all withdrew as well on Thursday...Defending champion K.J. Choi shot a three-over 75 on Thursday.