Ian Poulter fired a bogey-free 62 in the opening round of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational and will take a one-shot lead into Friday’s second set at Firestone Country Club.
Starting the day on the South Course’s 10th tee, Poulter opened with birdies on Nos. 10 and 11, then added a third on the 14th. He closed his first nine with two more gains on Nos. 16 and 17 to turn in 5-under 30. The Englishman scored two quick ones going home (Nos. 1 and 2), and then carded his eighth and final gain on the sixth hole to secure the pole position after day one in Akron, Ohio.
“Everything, I guess,” said Poulter, when asked what part of his game was most responsible for the low round.
“When you shoot 8 under par on a notoriously quite difficult golf course, you know, everything has to be right.
“I drove it in the fairway a lot, I gave myself many looks at birdie, took quite a few of those opportunities. Hit a few shots real close and kind of obviously tapped them in. When I needed to make up-and-down, I obviously did that as well.
“So it was all — it was all kind of gelling quite nicely.”
Poulter’s 62 tied a tournament record for the lowest opening round.
One back at 7-under par was Rickie Fowler, who also signed for a clean card – his with seven birdies, highlighted by five in a seven-hole stretch (Nos. 4-10). Kyle Stanley opened with a 6-under 29 in his first nine holes to post the day’s other 63, and sit alongside Fowler at T2.
A trio of young stars were T4 at 6-under par, headlined by world No. 5 Jon Rahm, along with Patrick Cantlay and Si Woo Kim.
Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas lead a group of seven players at 5-under par.
Seven more were one further back at T14 and 4-under par, including eight-time Bridgestone winner Tiger Woods, five-time major champion Phil Mickelson, and reigning major title holders Brooks Koepka (U.S. Open) and Patrick Reed (Masters).
Tiger’s 66 was his lowest opening-round score since a first-round 64 at the 2015 Wyndham Championship.
“I felt like today I didn’t quite hit it as well as I wanted to, but I fought out a score today, which was good,” said Woods.
“Really felt like I putted well. I did a little bit of work yesterday trying to get a feel for the ball rolling out because the last time I played it wasn’t — that wasn’t the case.
“Hit a lot of putts from above the hole yesterday, and consequently, today I felt really comfortable.”
Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama opened with a 3-under 67, good for T21. World No. 1 Dustin Johnson was 1-under 69 (T39), one clear of Open Championship winner Francesco Molinari (70), and two ahead of Jordan Spieth (71).
TOP 10 LEADERS
1. Ian Poulter -8
2. Kyle Stanley -7
2. Rickie Fowler -7
4. Patrick Cantlay -6
4. Jon Rahm -6
4. Si Woo Kim -6
7. Marc Leishman -5
7. Rory McIlroy -5
7. Luke List -5
7. Anirban Lahiri -5
7. Jason Day -5
7. Justin Thomas -5
7. Kevin Na -5
ROUND 1 HIGHLIGHTS
Watch more highlights at PGATOUR.com.
1. Bubba Watson – 347.3 (T55)
2. Jhonattan Vegas – 342.7 (T46)
3. Tony Finau – 341.7 (T27)
1. Kyle Stanley – 92.9% (T2)
2. Ian Poulter – 85.7% (1)
3. Henrik Stenson – 85.7% (T46)
1. Jason Day – 94.4% (T7)
2. Kyle Stanley – 88.9% (T2)
3. Daniel Berger – 88.9% (T21)
And where do you fall — I have a hard time keeping track when we have two lists going on. Where are you Ryder Cup-wise?
IAN POULTER: Ten. So I’m two out, tied right now. I think Matt Fitzpatrick’s in front of me and then it’s me. Paul Casey’s in, then Matt Fitzpatrick, and then I think it’s myself. Got a decent stretch.