Poulter makes a statement with opening 65


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Here’s to bearing bad news for believers in boring. There is concern for congregants of khaki. Depths of disappointment for devotees of dull.

Just days after Rickie Fowler claimed his first career PGA Tour victory in an orange wardrobe that would make Chester Cheetah purr with jealousy, Ian Poulter is one of two first-round co-leaders – alongside Martin Laird – at The Players Championship.

It’s part of a development that should have foes of fine fashion fluttering with fright.

Even though Poulter was dressed in a rather subdued all-white outfit for the opening stanza at TPC Sawgrass, his presence atop the leaderboard could be yet another blow for the “Look good, feel good, play good” motto that now more than ever is permeating the PGA Tour ranks.

Of course, one attribute that never goes out of style is putting – and Poulter wore it well on Thursday.

Starting on the ninth hole, the Englishman dropped nine consecutive one-putts that led to six birdies and three pars during that span.

“I had no idea that the run was nine single putts in a row,” he said. “But yeah, I mean, once you start holing a few putts, and obviously a nice 18-footer and a few nice 6-footers; 6-foot seems to be my range. My stats have always been good from there. So if I just miss a green, hopefully I have a chance to hit it inside 4 or 5 feet – and on these greens, as good as they are, you should expect to hole them. It was certainly nice to roll a few in.”

For the round, Poulter stroked 26 total putts, but that wasn’t the only aspect of his game that was firing on all cylinders. He also hit 11 of 14 fairways (T-15 in the field) and 14 of 18 greens in regulation (T-14) en route to a score of 7-under 65 on a day when red numbers were in abundance on the Stadium Course.

“It was a very, very good round of golf,” he said. “That's definitely probably in the top 10 of the rounds of golf I've ever played. To turn around and say that you're going to walk off 7 under par a little bit disappointed, but if I look at the chances I had on the front nine, that could have easily been a few more.”

This isn’t a course on which Poulter has enjoyed much success over the years. There was the runner-up result in 2009, when he finished four strokes behind winner Henrik Stenson, but otherwise he’s competed here seven times without scoring a single top 20.

That said, his torrid start shouldn’t come as a surprise based on recent form. In his last two PGA Tour appearances, Poulter finished solo third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and solo seventh at the Masters; those were followed by a T-29 in China and a T-15 in Korea.

It’s all part of a process that has seen him scoring better by thinking less.

“I felt myself on the golf course being able to turn off and on, concentration levels, not thinking about anything else apart from golf, which is always handy,” he explained. “I do fill my brain full of lots of funny things at times. It's nice when that's empty and I can do what it is I love to do, and that's go out there and play golf. It's a little demanding out there, and I played very well.”

It’s never boring with Poulter, whether it’s his golf, his post-round comments or his sartorial splendor. But hey, boring is out anyway. Climbing to the top of the leaderboard is always in fashion.