Precision putting helps Poulter set pace at Miyazaki

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The Independent Online

Ian Poulter produced a near flawless performance to tie for the lead after the opening round at the Dunlop Phoenix tournament in Miyazaki, Japan, yesterday.

The Englishman, part of a strong international contingent, carded five birdies for a five-under-par 65 in benign conditions. He joined Japan's Muto Toshinori and the South Korean Kim Kyung Tae, one stroke ahead of the Australian Chris Campbell and Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.

The defending champion, Padraig Harrington, eagled his first hole, the par-four 10th, but could not take full advantage of his start, shooting a two-under 68. "Starting with an eagle, I felt I could have done better," he said. "At times I was trying a little too hard, trying to birdie every hole. I feel good about my game. I just need to stay a little more patient than today. It was a little erratic."

Poulter was delighted not just with his score, but also the quality of his game. "I'll take five under with no bogeys around this place. It's pretty easy to make bogeys around here," he said. "I missed two greens in regulation, both of which were 25-foot bunker shots, and I up-and-downed both of them."

Poulter was fooled more than once by the pace of the greens. "They are sneakily quick," he said. "That nearly caught me out twice today. I holed some really good six-to-eight feet recovery putts when I rolled the first one past."

At the Hong Kong Open, Garry Houston paid tribute to the Ryder Cup winner Thomas Bjorn for inspiring his seven-under-par 63 opening round.

"I played with Thomas Bjorn on Tuesday in practice and he gave me a couple of tips. I took it out there today so I should really thank Thomas for that," said Houston, who held a one-stroke lead over the Swedes Robert Karlsson and Fredrik Andersson Hed.