(Macao, Oct. 13, 2016) – England’s Ian Poulter marked his return from a four-month injury layoff with a stylish seven under par 64 to share the first round lead with Spaniard Carlos Pigem at The Venetian Macao Open on Thursday.
The former Ryder Cup star birdied all the par five holes at Macau Golf and Country Club and did not drop a shot in the US$1.1 million Asian Tour tournament. Pigem, who broke through for his first Asian win in July, caught Poulter later in the day, thanks to an outstanding outward 28 which included five birdies and an eagle.
Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat led the chasing pack, with two closing birdies giving him a 65 to trail by one, while India’s Anirban Lahiri, champion here in 2014, shot a bogey-free 66 to share third place with Australia’s Marcus Fraser, who made two eagles after suffering an injury scare at the start of his round.
Birthday boy Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines, who turned 22 today, signed for a 67 to share fourth place with back-in-form Australian Marcus Both, last year’s joint runner-up Chiragh Kumar of India and Australia’s Kalem Richardson.
Poulter, a former world number five, was delighted to feature on the leaderboard at The Venetian Macao Open, the Asian Tour’s richest full-field event this season.
“It’s very important as you have no idea what to expect. As much as you think you can prepare, I’ve never had four and half months off in my life. It’s an unusual position but I played nicely,” said the 40-year-old, who was a vice captain at the recent Ryder Cup for Europe.
“I just tried to get my game into shape coming out here. I birdied all the par fives which is obviously very helpful and I didn’t make any mistakes. It’s the type of course where if you don’t make a mistake, you can piece together a very nice score.”
After having a carbon plate inserted into his insole to help alleviate a leg injury, Poulter did not pick up his clubs for 14 weeks, and despite his brilliant start today is prepared to take it one step at a time.
“It’s a long way to go. The most important thing I’ll take away from this is how solid I played, how nicely I putted and I’ve worked in all areas of my game to get ready. and obviously it’s a great start,” said Poulter, who is a 16-time winner, including twice on the Asian Tour.
After missing his last three cuts, Pigem, 26, bounced back to form as he shot a career first 28, which included a chip-in eagle on the third. “To be honest, on mini golf, or pitch and putt, I may have shot  but certainly not in a tournament,” he smiled.
“I’ve been playing badly the past few weeks. So I’m happy today I enjoyed myself made birdies again, which is important. and hopefully I can keep it like this. I hope this is the beginning of good and new things.”
Four-time Asian Tour winner Chapchai wielded a hot putter, needing only 27 strokes on the short grass. “I’ve not putted well the past few months but the Thai players were giving me some tips on Wednesday, telling me to be more aggressive with my stroke. It worked,” said the 33-year-old.
Reigning Asian Tour number one Lahiri took his customary place among the leaders with five birdies. Like Poulter, he was also returning from injury, but showed no rust after some early struggles in Indonesia last week.
“My shoulder is beginning to heal and the nerves are settling down. I’m happy and I’m definitely in a better place physically. When I get to this golf course, I’m in a good place mentally,” said Lahiri, who has been runner-up here twice and is 47 under par over the last three years.
“My game has sort of moulded to the golf course. I’m happy with my round, minimised mistakes and didn’t hit too many poor shots.”
Fraser, second on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, had a scare early on with back spasm. But after receiving treatment, the Aussie hit the ground running, knocking a superb three wood to eight feet for eagle on 18 and then holing out from the fairway on the eighth hole from about 65 yards out.
“It’s a pretty colourful scorecard, that’s for sure,” said Fraser, who won in Malaysia earlier this season. “My back went into a spasm when we were about to go off from the tenth tee. Hopefully I’ll be able to get it sorted as it wasn’t feeling too good.”
The Venetian Macao became title sponsor of the tournament in 2012 and since then has seen it develop into one of the most prestigious professional golf tournaments in the region, offering the highest purse at US$1.1 million for a full-field Asian Tour event this year.
The 144-player championship is jointly organised by Sports Bureau of Macao SAR Government (MSB) and the Golf Association of Macau. It is sanctioned by both the Asian Tour and the Golf Association of Macau, and promoted by IMG.
For more details on The Venetian Macao Open, please visit: www.thevenetianmacaoopen.com.
For further information, please contact:
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About Sports Bureau of Macao SAR Government (MSB)
Sports Bureau of Macao SAR Government, under the capacity of the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture of the Macao SAR Government, is a public organization of administration autonomy. The organization is responsible for the implementation of sport strategy and policy formulated by the Macao SAR Government. Its objective is to stimulate, encourage, and promote all kind of sports in Macao, also to create an essential condition for sport development.
For the development of competitive sports and ‘Sport for all’, Sports Bureau of Macao SAR Government organizes various high level international sport competitions as well as recreational classes and thematic ‘Sport for all’ activities each year, in an endeavor to promote the international status of Macao, reinforce communication and co-operation with other countries and cites, enhance citizens’ quality of life and arouse their interest in sport, so as to accelerate and facilitate the enhancement of the level of sport in Macao.
For more information, please visit www.sport.gov.mo
About Golf Association of Macau
Founded in 2000, the Golf Association of Macau is a non-profit organization, with the mission to promote, support and ensure the quality, traditions and development of the game of golf in Macao.
With the mission to encourage and promote golf in Macao, it provides coaching, training and selection of the Macao teams for participation in international events at all levels, and promotes and runs appropriate international and domestic golfing events in Macao, which helps to represent Macao in the golfing world and be a member of appropriate regional and world governing bodies.
About The Venetian® Macao
Opened in 2007, The Venetian® Macao is Macao's first integrated resort featuring stunning replicas of the famous canals and architectural icons of Venice, Italy. The Venetian Macao features 3,000 suites, 1.2 million square feet (111,000 square metres) of convention and meeting facilities as well as a 15,000-seat Cotai Arena designed for world-class sports events and electrifying entertainment. The Venetian Macao is also home to the unique, 1,800-seat luxury Venetian Theatre, hosting the best in international and Chinese entertainment; more than 30 renowned restaurants; TAIVEXMALO Day Hospital; the incredibly fun QUBE indoor playground and more than 350 retailers at Shoppes at Venetian. Outdoor recreation areas include swimming pools and cabanas and a mini-golf course.
For more information, please visit www.venetianmacao.com.
About Sands Resorts Cotai Strip Macao – Sands China’s Integrated Resort City
Sands China Ltd. is the leading developer, owner and operator of integrated resorts in Macao. The befittingly named Sands Resorts Cotai Strip Macao, situated on reclaimed land between the islands of Coloane and Taipa, is the one destination that provides a stunning array of experiences at the heart of Cotai. Sands Resorts Cotai Strip Macao has transformed a day-trip market into an integrated resort city and international hub for business and leisure travellers.
Pulsating with life, both night and day, Sands Resorts Cotai Strip Macao features an expansive offering of affordable luxury available nowhere else in Macao. . With the opening of The Parisian Macao, it will have nearly 13,000hotel rooms and suites, international superstar live entertainment, duty-free shopping with more than 850 retailers offering an unparalleled array of name brands, meeting and exhibition space for Asia’s leading conferences and exhibitions, transportation offerings and well over 150 dining options, including Michelin-starred restaurants, bars and lounges. Sands Resorts Cotai Strip Macao is a must-go destination providing every guest with an unforgettable experience and unparalleled excitement.
Comprised of The Venetian® Macao; The Plaza™ Macao, featuring the Four Seasons Hotel Macao; and Sands® Cotai Central, featuring the world’s largest Conrad, Sheraton, and St. Regis hotels as well as the Holiday Inn. Sands Resorts Cotai Strip Macao is where Asia’s ultimate destination is all within reach. And coming in 2016, the crowning achievement of Sheldon G. Adelson’s vision of the Cotai Strip - The Parisian Macao. For more information, please visit ParisianMacao.com.
For more information about Sands Resorts Cotai Strip Macao, please visit http://en.sandsresortsmacao.com.
About the Asian Tour
As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include ECCO (Official Footwear Sponsor), FENIX XCell (Official Apparel Supplier), Hilton Worldwide (Official Hotel Partner), Titleist (Official Web Partner), Bloomberg TV (Official International Media Sponsor), Bloomberg Businessweek Chinese (Official Business Publication Sponsor) and Rolex (Official Timekeeper). Sentosa, Singapore is the Home of the Asian Tour which also has an office in Kuala Lumpur.
IMG is a global leader in sports, events, media and fashion, operating in more than 30 countries. The company represents and manages some of the world’s greatest sports figures and fashion icons; stages hundreds of live events and branded entertainment experiences annually; and is one of the largest independent producers and distributors of sports media. IMG also specializes in sports training; league development; and marketing, media and licensing for brands, sports organizations and collegiate institutions. In 2014, IMG was acquired by WME, a leading global entertainment agency.