Poulter enjoys Birkdale return

20 July 2017 09:44:05 EST

Ian Poulter was a happy man after opening his Open Championship campaign at Royal Birkdale with a fine 3-under par round of 67.

The Englishman, who finished in second place the last time the Open was held at Southport nine years ago, had to qualify for the event this time around, having slid down the world rankings due to injury and a slump in form.

I played really well, I would have taken that before going out.

Ian Poulter

And he made the most of the opportunity he had given himself, recording four birdies and just one dropped shot to put himself among the first-round pacesetters.

He told BBC Sport after a good day's work: "It was amazing. Birkdale nine years ago felt pretty good on Sunday afternoon and it felt just as good today.

"I played really well, I would have taken that before going out and I hit all the shots I wanted to.

"I played careful on a few holes for obvious reasons and committed to a lot of shots. A couple of putts slipped by the edge, but it adds up to a decent score, so I'm pretty happy.

"To go out there and post a red number on the board on a good, strong golf course always feels great. It feels even better knowing that I had to go through qualifying to get here."

Poulter is now 1500/1 to win the Open Championship, with Thomas Pieters, who opened with a 69, 3000/1 and defending champion Henrik Stenson 400/1.

Meanwhile, former Masters champion Danny Willett opened with a 1-over par 71, admitting afterwards that he is still being troubled by an ongoing back problem.

He told reporters: "I've managed it quite well. I've not done loads and limited myself to nine holes a day, so it's been a case of trying to take it easy.

"I looked out of my bathroom window this morning and thought 'this could be interesting', but it's held up reasonably alright."

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