Poulter takes one-stroke lead

Pro Golf

AKRON, Ohio — Ian Poulter was annoyed upon realizing he had never finished better than 13th at Firestone, so he took a step toward doing something about it Thursday with an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead in the Bridgestone Invitational.

Tiger Woods found himself fighting his swing. He settled for a 66.

Such was the difference of two players with vastly different memories on the stout South course at Firestone.

Woods is an eight-time winner, already a PGA Tour record for most victories on one course. Back at this World Golf Championship for the first time in four years, he made a 50-foot birdie putt and two other long putts to offset some average iron play.

It was his best opening round of the year, and he needed it just to keep pace with everyone else on a soft and vulnerable course that led to 45 players in the 71-man field breaking par. The average score was 68.37, the lowest for the opening round at Firestone since it became a WGC in 1999 and the lowest for the first round of any PGA Tour event this season.

“I didn’t quite hit it as well as I wanted to,” Woods said. “But I fought out a score today, which was good.”

Poulter is playing Firestone for the 14th time, and he came across a sheet showing his yearly results. At least he hasn’t missed the cut, mainly because there is no cut at these tournaments. He tied for 13th his first year, 10 shots behind. It never got any better.

“Yeah, it fires me up,” Poulter said after saving par from a bunker on his last hole for a bogey-free round. “It’s frustrating to look at. I actually thought I had a better finish than that, so it really annoyed me. … I wrote them all down, they were that bad. I was like, ‘Seriously, how can you play a good golf course this many times and not really have a result?’ So not to even finish in the top 10 is pretty poor.”

It’s just a start, but it was a good one.

His 62 matched the lowest first-round score at Firestone, first set by Adam Scott in 2011, and it was one off the course record for any round.

Rickie Fowler and Kyle Stanley each had a 63, while Jon Rahm, Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay were another shot behind. Seven players were in the group at 65, which included Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Jason Day.

Poulter missed a 10-foot putt on No. 8, his second-to-last hole. He was in no mood to quibble.

Elsewhere:

n No. 8-ranked Minjee Lee shot a 7-under 65, including a right-to-left putt for eagle from 25 feet on the par-5 15th hole, to lead by one stroke after the first round of the Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham.

Mamiko Higa was a shot behind after a 66, while five players — Georgia Hall, Teresa Lu, Park Sung-hyun, Lee Mi-hyang and Pornanong Phatlum — were a further stroke back on a day that started with showers and a breeze before brightening up.

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