Ian Poulter has enjoyed a late-career resurrection of sorts in the last two seasons, highlighted by his third PGA Tour victory in April at the Houston Open. That, plus his record in the Ryder Cup, should make him a good bet to earn a spot on European captain Thomas Bjorn's team. But with Poulter 25th in the standings, you can never be too sure.
That's why the Englishman entered the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this week with some extra motivation, needing to add to his strong 2017-'18 resume to stay in the conversation for a captain's pick, at least in his mind. A first-round 62 at Firestone Country Club, his career-low round on the PGA Tour, certainly helps his case.
"My whole game was great today," said Poulter, who hit 12 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens while needing just 25 putts. "Whenever you shoot eight under par you've generally done a lot of good stuff. I did very well tee to green, proximity to the pin, I rolled a few nice putts in. As silly as it sounds, I would have liked to nicked another couple, but any time you shoot eight under par on this golf course it's a great round of golf."
Poulter's impressive round came at a golf course he's probably ready to say goodbye to on Sunday as the WGC-Bridgestone gets set to head to Memphis in 2019. In his last six appearances in the event, which regularly features around 75 players or fewer, his best finish is T-17 in 2015.
"I looked at my stats over the last 15 attempts at this place, and they're not very good," said Poulter. "I think a T-13 in my first year, tied 13th or 17th last time out, it's not good enough. So today I was a bit more aggressive and it paid off."
The career-low round is the latest milestone in Poulter's revival, one that came thanks to a lot of changes.
"A good change in mindset, a good cleanup from behind the scenes. Sorting a lot of noise out, which needed turning down. Good cleanup on the backroom stuff, more focus on the job in hand. It's a Ryder Cup year, I want to play in it and I need to play some good golf."
Poulter wasn't the only player to go low on Thursday, though, as both Rickie Fowler and Kyle Stanley each scared his solo lead with seven-under 63s, Fowler's bogey-free. Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm and Si Woo Kim are one back at six under.
Another strong group is at five under, led by Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Justin Thomas, the latter looking to return to his early-season form and give himself a chance to defend his title at the PGA Championship next week. Close behind are Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, who made his only bogey of the day at his 18th hole.