Players Championship: Ian Poulter and Martin Laird lead at Sawgrass

Ian Poulter
Ian Poulter

Players Championship first round leaderboard

-7:
M Laird (Sco), I Poulter (Eng)
-6 :
B Adams (US)
-5:
K Na (US), B Crane (US)
-4:
M Thompson (US), H Frazar (US), M Kuchar (US), K Stadler (US), J Vegas (Ven), A Scott (Aus), B Haas (US), B Curtis (US), J Byrd (US), B Davis (Eng), SM Bae (S Kor)
Selected others -3:
P Harrington (Ire)
-1:
L Westwood (Eng), P Mickelson (US)
Even:
R McIlroy (N Ire), L Donald (Eng)
+2:
T Woods (US)

Ian Poulter and Martin Laird shared the first-round lead at seven under in the Players Championship in Florida.

England's Poulter was on top for much of the day with his career-low Sawgrass round of 65 before US-based Scotsman Laird joined him late on.

American Blake Adams was one shot back ahead of a large group on four under, including England's Brian Davis.

Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald ended level par with Lee Westwood one under and Tiger Woods two over.

Poulter, runner-up to Swede Henrik Stenson three years ago, fired eight birdies in all, including four in a row from the ninth and six in his last 10 holes.

"I played lovely," said the 36-year-old. "That's probably in the top 10 of the rounds of golf I have ever played.

"I do like tough golf courses. I generally play them well; whether it focuses my mind a bit more, I don't know. It is a proper test of golf. I'm excited to see what happens over the weekend."

Poulter admits he is playing with a "huge weight off his mind" after finally seeing completion of the palatial new house he has been building on the shores of Lake Nona in Florida.

"It was brutal from start to finish," he said. "There were a lot of interesting hiccups along the way, but I'm glad to say they are all behind me and we are going to spend that first night in there on Sunday."

Laird's bogey-free round beat his previous best score at Sawgrass by five shots and he said: "That's the secret to going seven under, you've got to putt well.

"This is a course where you can't chase a score; you've got to stay patient and can't fire at flags. It's so hard to get close to pins so you need to hole putts."

Westwood has so often been hampered by his putter, but he managed seven birdies in his opening round only to be pulled back by four bogeys and a double on the seventh.

Fellow Englishman Donald, the world number two, also had a mixed day but birdies on 16 and 17 helped him finish with a 72.

World number one McIlroy was two under par with two holes remaining, only to put his tee shot in the water on the infamous island green 17th on the way to a double bogey.

Woods, the 14-time major champion, came to the Players after his eighth career missed cut at Quail Hollow last week and was in danger of failing to reach the weekend again.

The 36-year-old, who broke a 17-month win drought with victory at Bay Hill in March, opened on the 10th hole with a bogey and went out in one-over 37 with three bogeys and two birdies, including holing a 13-foot putt at the 17th.

The former world number one, now seventh in the rankings, dropped further shots at the first and third, either side of a birdie on the second, before parring his way home.

"It wasn't certainly the most positive start," Woods said. "Any kind of momentum that I would build, I would shoot myself in the foot on the very next hole. Just one of those days.

"I didn't get a lot out of that round. It should have been probably one or two under par."

Paul Casey withdrew with a shoulder injury after taking 42 shots to cover his first nine holes, while Argentine Angel Cabrera withdrew for "personal reasons" after putting three tee shots in the water en route to a nine on the 17th.

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