MACAU (AP) — Ian Poulter returned from a four-month layoff because of a foot ailment to take a share of the lead at the Macau Open with an opening-round 64.
Poulter and Spain’s Carlos Pigem were tied at 7 under par on Thursday and had a one-shot lead over Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat, who had three birdies and an eagle over his last eight holes to finish with a 65.
Australia’s Marcus Fraser experienced back spasms at the start of his round and, after taking some pain medication, finished with a 66, tied with India’s Anirban Lahiri at 5 under.
Poulter had five birdies on the outward nine in his first round back since missing the cut at Colonial in late May.
“I’ve never had four and a half months off in my life. It’s an unusual position but I played nicely,” said Poulter, a vice-captain for Europe at the recent Ryder Cup. “I just tried to get my game in shape coming out here.”
Poulter said he didn’t play competitively for 14 weeks because of an arthritic joint in his right foot, which made it difficult to walk and now requires him to wear a special insole in his shoe.
“The most important thing I’ll take away from this is how solid I played, how nicely I putted,” he said. “I’ve worked in all areas of my game to get ready, and obviously, it’s a great start.
“There’s no cure for arthritis, so rest and rehab … is the key part.”