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Poulter out of 'strange place' to rally in Shenzhen

ESPN staff
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Ian Poulter is two off the lead following an opening-round 69 © Getty Images
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Ian Poulter has hardly set the golfing world on fire this year and the Englishman has admitted he has struggled with his swing in the opening months of the season.

Despite claiming he was "disgusted" with his showing at the Masters two weeks ago, a 20th-place finish offered encouraging signs.

Poulter has followed that performance up with an opening-round 3-under 69 at the China Open to sit two off the leaders - countryman Simon Dyson and Spain's Alvaro Quiros.

"[I] played nicely today and made a few nice putts," Poulter said. "Only one mistake - drove into hazard on the par-5 [13th] and made bogey. But lots of good today.

"Obviously the start to the year wasn't as I would have liked. I wouldn't say I got confused - I'm always confused - but I was in a strange place in the sense that I didn't really know what I was doing with my golf swing, which is unlike me.

"But I seem to have figured it out and have started to play some really good golf. I am still making the odd costly mistake so the results haven't reflected the way I have been playing."

Starting at the 10th, that bogey at 13 took Poulter back to level par after a birdie at his second hole of the day. He made further gains at 17th, first and third.

"I am looking forward to keeping the improvements coming this week," he added.

Dyson, also starting at 10, rolled home birdies at 12, 17, 18, two, three and nine, with his only dropped shot coming at the par-4 first.

"The first nine holes I played was the best I have played for quite some time," said the 36-year-old, who is looking to become the first player to win the China Open more than once having triumphed in 2000.

"I really didn't miss a shot. I missed two fairways just, and didn't miss a green so gave myself a lot chances which is always nice and then I managed to make a couple of birdies on the other side for a tidy five under. It was a good start and very pleasing.

"I have to say that because I was absolutely horrendous in the pro-am yesterday. I just went on the range for a couple of hours and managed to find something which I took out on to the course and it seemed to work for me."

Quiros, starting at the first, raced to 2-under through two holes before parring his way to the turn. A bogey at 10 dropped him back to 1-under but an eagle at 13 and birdies at 14 and 18 saw him sign for an opening-round 67.

"It was a good round of golf," Quiros, a six-time European Tour champion, said. "It was a bit of a shame on the last par five because I was half a metre away from having a great chance to make another eagle but I ended up on the lip of the bunker and had to settle for a chip and two putts.

"You can't see it yet on the rankings but I have been playing better. The Middle East swing was a good three weeks for me then I had a good result in Joburg and the last couple of weeks have been better."

Englishmen David Horsey and Tyrell Hatton lead a cluster of six players at 4-under par, which includes Alexander Levy and Il-hwan Park - who completed 17 holes before play was suspended due to bad light.

Defending champion Brett Rumford is also in the pack one off the lead. The Australian carded birdies at one, two, seven, nine, 17 and 18 as well as two bogies at the fifth and eighth.

"There is a long way to go," he said. "There are a lot of very good players here this week so I just need to try and keep playing and scoring the way I did over the next two rounds and try to get myself into a position where I have a chance to win coming down the back nine on Sunday."

PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner carded a 1-over 73.

China Open leaderboard

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