Ian Poulter leads Bridgestone leaderboard full of heavy hitters in Round 1

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Ian Poulter leads Bridgestone leaderboard full of heavy hitters in Round 1

PGA Tour

Ian Poulter leads Bridgestone leaderboard full of heavy hitters in Round 1

AKRON, Ohio – Firestone Country Club was as gettable as most of these players have ever seen it, and the best in the world took advantage Thursday to set up a highly-intriguing leaderboard after Round 1 of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Ian Poulter leads outright after an 8 under 62, Kyle Stanley and Rickey Fowler are second at 7 under and the top 15 includes stars like Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Tiger Woods, Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson. All are within four shots of the lead.

How’s that for a farewell to Firestone?

“No one’s here by accident,” Fowler said. “You’re bringing together the best players in the world, so there’s no reason why you’re not going to see big names up there. … It’s fun to see this place like this where you’re getting to see a little bit more of the offensive sides versus when it gets firm. It can get scary at times.”

The greens were soft enough that players could still hit them from hearty rough and by days end, 45 of the 71 players were under par.

Poulter, who teed off on 10, shot 5-under 30 for his first nine holes and avoided any bogeys down the stretch. The 42-year-old Englishman ended a 6-year winless streak on Tour when he beat Beau Hossler in a playoff at the Houston Open this spring.

It was an unlikely start considering his lack of success around this place, his best result a T-13 in 10 career starts.

“It fires me up. I mean, it’s frustrating to look at,” Poulter said. “I wrote all of (the results) 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? To not even finish in the top 10 is pretty poor.”

On this day he was four shots better than Woods, an eight-time winner here who made a lone bogey on his final hole of the day to shoot 4-under 66. He got into the field on the number thanks to a T-6 finish at the British Open and wasn’t all that happy with his performance.

“I just couldn’t quite get a feel for it,” Woods said of an erratic driver. “And even with my irons I wasn’t very sharp on the back nine. But I was just kind of hanging in there with it. Wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do today but, as I said, I ground out a score today, which was good.”

With Woods back in the field and seven of the top 10 players in the world inside the top 15, the Bridgestone’s final installment in Akron is shaping up to be a great one.

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