Poulter takes on American leaders

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England's Ian Poulter missed the Masters last week after dropping out of the world's top 50 but returned to form by producing a two-under-par 69 in the opening round of the Verizon Heritage Classic at Hilton Head Island.

The Ryder Cup player, who finished six shots off the lead set by American Vaughn Taylor, began with a bogey-free opening nine of 33. A birdie at the par-four third was followed with a four at the 530-yard fifth and the short par-four ninth provided the Milton Keynes golfer with the chance to pick up another shot.

His only bogey came at the 436-yard 11th but he played regulation golf for the remainder of his round to break into an American-dominated leader board.

Taylor's eight-under-par round of 63 began inauspiciously as, starting from the 10th, he had five straight pars before his day burst into life with four successive birdies to turn in 31.

A bogey five at the first hole appeared to have ended that run but he recovered to register five birdies in eight holes, finishing at the ninth by hitting his 138-yard approach to seven feet.

It gave him a one-stroke lead over his compatriot Jim Furyk, who had a flawless round which included seven birdies.

* The Frenchman Christian Cevaer set the early pace at the Volvo China Open, firing a six-under-par 66 to take a one-stroke lead at the Honghua International club in Beijing. Cevaer was ahead of a chasing pack which included English trio Ross Fisher, Simon Wakefield and Simon Dyson, plus Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Sweden's Peter Hanson, who all shot a 67 in sunny conditions.

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