Poulter and Laird flying high after day one at Sawgrass

The Brits are leading the way after day one of the prestigious Players Championship in Florida after Ian Poulter’s early 65 was matched by Scotsman Martin Laird.

Poulter blazed a trail in the morning session at TPC Sawgrass, posting seven-under to lead by one from American Blake Adams before Laird outshone the big-name afternoon starters to join the Englishman on top.

Runner-up to Henrik Stenson in the ‘fifth major’ in 2009, Poulter beat his previous best round in Jacksonville by two strokes thanks in the main to nine consecutive one-putt holes from the ninth to the 17th.

“I played lovely,” said Poulter, who will finally move into his new house in Florida this weekend. “I hit it really, really solid.

“You have to hit the right shot at the right time – it’s a very, very difficult course and tests you to the highest.”

Laird’s blemish-free effort was five shots better than his previous course-best and featured seven birdies, the last of them coming on the long ninth – his final hole – thanks to a smart up-and-down from greenside.

He said later that putting was the key.

“I finally made some,” the United States-based Glaswegian said. “I’ve always struggled before.

“I was quietly confident going out. I’m not saying I thought I would shoot seven under, but I thought I could play well.”

Adams’ 66 kept him one clear of compatriots Kevin Na and Ben Crane, while Australia’s Adam Scott and Brian Davis of England were among a large group one further back.

But it was a disastrous day for Paul Casey, who went out in 42 and managed just one more hole before giving in to his troublesome shoulder and pulling out.

Angel Cabrera was another to quit after putting three balls in the water on the notorious 17th.

World number one Rory McIlroy also found the drink on 17, the resulting double bogey dropping him back to level par for the day where he finished after a four on 18.

Second-ranked Luke Donald, also an afternoon starter, birdied 16 and 17 to match McIlroy’s 72 while world number three Lee Westwood returned a one-under 71 after a mixed round featuring seven birdies, four bogeys and a double.

But Tiger Woods is in danger of a second successive missed cut – something he has never suffered before – after shooting a two-over 74 in the morning session.

A disappointed Woods, who had five bogeys, said: “Any kind of momentum that I would build I would shoot myself in the foot on the very next hole.

“It was frustrating in the sense that my good shots ended up in bad spots and obviously my bad shots ended up in worse spots.

Padraig Harrington handed in a 69, although he reckoned he scored better than he actually played, but Justin Rose laboured to a 76 and Graeme McDowell, who lost a three-shot lead on the final day last year, was alongside Woods on two-over.