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Ian Poulter starts season in sparkling form

Ian Poulter, fresh from a break and two long days of practice, carded a seven-under-par 65 to take a share of the lead in the first round of the Abu Dhabi Championship on Thursday.

“I wasn’t expecting to come out quite as fast as that but I will certainly take it,” said Poulter, who ended the round tied with compatriot Richard Bland and South African Keith Horne.

“I hit the ball lovely. I got here on Monday night, started practising and my game felt about 70 percent, let alone the way it was today.

“So I put in an extra long session on Tuesday and Wednesday; my hands were raw and sore. I’ve done an awful lot of work, and it’s definitely paid off.”

Poulter, 34, produced a bogey-free display around the National course to secure the clubhouse lead before Bland and Horne, who were competing together in the last group, ended their rounds as darkness descended on the United Arab Emirates capital.

The 37-year-old Bland had an eagle at the second hole, which he was playing as his 11th, while the 38-year-old Horne started his round with three straight birdies.

Nine players, including Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Alvaro Quirois, Scotland’s former Open champion Paul Lawrie and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, carded six-under-par 66s.

Poulter is trying to secure an automatic place on the European Ryder Cup side. He is sixth overall on the points list, a position helped by his win at the Singapore Open in November when he led from start to finish.

“I’d taken six weeks off before Singapore and put the clubs down for three to four weeks, and I’ve done a very similar thing this time around and put the clubs down for three-and-a-half weeks,” he said.

“So I’m fresh and I’m hungry to go out there and perform, and when you take a five-week break you get some excitement back to go out and perform and I’ve done that today.”

Garcia showed little concern for his injured right wrist, with three birdies in succession from his 12th hole.

Germany’s Martin Kaymer, winner of the event in 2008, is well placed at five under par but defending champion Paul Casey of Britain ruined his round with a penultimate-hole double bogey in a level-par 72.

Former U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell of New Zealand carded an 11-over 83 that left him trailing in last place by four strokes.



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