Poulter grabs WGC-Bridgestone lead with 62

Ian Poulter looks like he’s already in form for the Ryder Cup late next month in Paris.

The 42-year-old Englishman, always a stalwart for the European team, shot a bogey-free 8-under-par 62 and took a one-stroke lead over ninth-ranked Rickie Fowler and Kyle Stanley after the first round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.

Poulter tied the first-round record in the Bridgestone set by Adam Scott of Australia in 2011.

“If you would have offered me this at the start of the day, I would have snapped your arm for it,” said Poulter, who has never finished in the top 10 in 13 starts at Firestone. “Yeah, we can be greedy and say I’d love to have holed that (11-foot) putt on 8 to have tied the record. But 8-under-par’s a pretty decent round for me around this golf course.

“Yeah, (his poor record at Firestone) fires me up. 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.”

Fowler, from Murrieta, collected five birdies in a seven-hole stretch through No. 10 in a bogey-free 63, which Stanley matched with the help of six birdies on the back nine after starting at No. 10.

Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA had four birdies on the back nine in a 64 and is tied for fourth with fifth-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, who sank a 13-foot birdie putt while finishing at No. 9, and Si Woo Kim of South Korea, who made four birdies on the back nine.

Third-ranked Justin Thomas finished at 65 and is tied for seventh with seventh-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, 10-th ranked Jason Day of Australia, Kevin Na of Diamond Bar, Marc Leishman of Australia, Anirban Lahiri of India and Luke List.

Tiger Woods, who has won the Bridgestone a record eight times, opened with a 66, including a 50-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole and is in a tie for 14th that includes fourth-ranked Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson.

Defending Hideki Matsuyama is tied for 21st at 67, top-ranked Dustin Johnson shot 69 and is tied for 39th, sixth-ranked Francesco Molinari of Italy is in a tie for 46th at 70 and eighth-ranked Jordan Spieth is tied for 55th at 71.

For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html

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