Poulter, Laird relax Day 1

TPC Sawgrass plays easy for a pair

Ian Poulter ran off four consecutive birdies around the turn and birdied all of the par 5s, key for this golf course. He shared the first-round lead at The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach with Martin Laird. Enlarge photo

David Goldman/Associated Press

Ian Poulter ran off four consecutive birdies around the turn and birdied all of the par 5s, key for this golf course. He shared the first-round lead at The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach with Martin Laird.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The TPC Sawgrass would seem to be the last golf course where a player can relax.

That might explain why Ian Poulter and Martin Laird were atop the leaderboard Thursday in The Players Championship at 7-under 65, even if their mood was for entirely different reasons.

Poulter finally moved into his new home at Lake Nona that took nearly three years to build and caused him enough grief that he said he could write a book. It took so long to unpack boxes last week that he barely had time to practice, but at least his head was clear.

“All of the hassle and stress is over, and I can just go out and play golf,” Poulter said.

Laird recently parted with his longtime caddie and hired a new looper who also is a friend and closer to his age.

“It was kind of nice to be out on the course and be able to chat away to someone that’s my age and is like a friend as opposed to a caddie,” he said. “That definitely helped keep me a little more relaxed on the golf course, and it feeds through all parts of your game, down to your putting.”

It wasn’t like that for everyone.

Four players withdrew with various injuries and high scores. Sunghoon Kang opened with a quadruple-bogey 9, followed with eagle-par-birdie and lost four shots over the last four holes. Jerry Kelly made four birdies and shot 82.

Tiger Woods brought a small degree of normalcy, not necessarily a good thing for him at Sawgrass. He never has broken 70 in his 15 years at The Players Championship, and he extended that streak with a sloppy 74. This might be costly, however, because it put him in a tie for 100th and put him in serious danger of missing the cut for the second consecutive week. He only has missed eight cuts in his career.

“Just one of those days,” Woods said, and there seems to be a lot of those lately.

Poulter ran off four consecutive birdies around the turn and birdied all of the par 5s, key for this golf course. Laird was the only player without a bogey on his card. He made birdie on his final hole to catch Poulter, although his focus was more on his scorecard than the leaderboard.

“I knew I hadn’t made a 5 all day, and that was kind of a little goal I had,” said Laird, who finished on the par-5 ninth. “Nothing to do with getting to 7 under. It was, ‘I don’t want to make a 5 all day.’”

Martin Laird was the only player without a bogey on his card Thursday at The Players Championship. He made birdie on his final hole to catch Ian Poulter atop the leaderboard. Enlarge photo

John Raoux/Associated Press

Martin Laird was the only player without a bogey on his card Thursday at The Players Championship. He made birdie on his final hole to catch Ian Poulter atop the leaderboard.