It was agony and ecstasy for two of England’s stars at golf’s richest event today.
The ecstasy belonged to Ian Poulter, whose seven-under-par 65 set the early pace and put him nine in front of Tiger Woods, struggling yet again.
The agony was Paul Casey’s. Out for more than two months after dislocating his shoulder snowboarding, he was struggling with it again, and after taking 42 to the turn withdrew on the next hole.
It not only ended his hopes of a first prize of well over £1million, but was a further blow to his chances of regaining his Ryder Cup place.
Poulter, runner-up to Swede Henrik Stenson three years ago, knocked two strokes off his previous best score on the course and described it as one of the top 10 rounds of his career.
Woods, on the other hand, put himself in danger of a second successive missed cut – something he has never suffered before – with a five-bogey 74.
He was not even in the top 100 and said: “Any kind of momentum that I would build I would shoot myself in the foot on the very next hole.
“For some reason it’s just been one of those weird deals. Out here [on tour] you have to take care of the par fives and I haven’t done a very good job of it lately.
“It was frustrating in the sense that my good shots ended up in bad spots and obviously my bad shots ended up in worse spots.
“In the last few months I’ve put together some good rounds and won a couple tournaments, so it’s there – I just need to continue doing it.”
It was a good morning for Padraig Harrington, round in 69, and shaping up to be an event better afternoon for Scot Martin Laird, who stood five under and joint fourth with five holes still remaining.
Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood were two under early in the back nine, but Luke Donald, the other player battling for the world number one spot, was only one over playing alongside Westwood.
Poulter came to the long ninth “only” one under, but pitched to four feet there and began a run of four successive birdies.
The twice World Match Play champion – once in Arizona, then in Spain last year - hit his approach to six feet at the 10th, came out of sand to four feet on the next and converted an 18-foot putt at the 12th.
Another up and down from a bunker at the par five 16th took him alongside little-known American Blake Adams and a curling nine-foot putt at the dangerous 17th – the hole with a near-island green – gave him the outright lead.
“I played lovely,” said the Englishman, who will finally move into his new house in Florida this weekend. “I hit it really, really solid.”
He also had nine successive one-putts from the ninth to 17th.
“You have to hit the right shot at the right time – it’s a very, very difficult course and tests you to the highest.”
Woods played the course the other way round and set off with his first dropped shot, finding a greenside bunker and coming out way short.
He made a nine-footer on the short 13th and also made two on the 17th from 13th, but there were more bogeys on the 15th, 18th, first and third.
The 14-major winner had made his third birdie of the day on the second, but finishing with six pars in a row left him an awful lot of ground to make up.
Playing partner Rickie Fowler, who beat McIlroy in a play-off last week, shot 72, the same mark Phil Mickelson was on with seven to go and Graeme McDowell with six holes left.
Londoner Brian Davis, who eagled the 16th, was another on two under, but Justin Rose was three over and Simon Dyson four over.
At least they were still going. Argentina’s Angel Cabrera put three balls in the water on the near island green 17th, took a sextuple bogey nine and after signing for a 78 pulled out.
Casey was followed out by Dyson, who had a 76 and told organisers he would not be returning for the second round.
That was the same score he had last Sunday after taking a lead into the final day of the Spanish Open.
Westwood and McIlroy both bogeyed the short 13th, but Laird was up to joint second with little-known American Blake Adams when he birdied the fifth from the fairway bunker.
Laird chipped to within five feet of the flag on the long ninth and by holing the putt joined Poulter on 65.