An unwell Poulter holds fast in OZ

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There were no fireworks from an ill Ian Poulter on Friday, but a 68 was enough to see him hold his first-round lead.

There were no fireworks from an ill, off-colour Ian Poulter on Friday, but a 3-under 68 was enough to see him hold his first-round lead at the JBWere Australian Masters in Melbourne.

The charismatic Englishman posted birdies at all three par-fives while giving away just one bogey, as he moved on to a 9-under total and kept secure his two-stroke advantage.

But Friday won’t be a day he’ll remember with any fondness for, from the word go, he had to battle a bout of food poisoning in sweltering conditions that hardly helped.

“I woke up this morning, wasn’t good at all. I had something bad to eat last night unfortunately, so I felt a bit weak out there today and it showed, I hit it terribly,” Poulter told reporters, his brow dripping with perspiration

“Got myself out of position a number of times, but my short game was on and I holed a few nice putts.

“So to look back at the round, I would have taken that score with certainly how I played.”

“I’m still in a decent position, I just need to get that putter going and get on a roll.” Poulter said as he headed into a weekend forecasters are saying will see strong winds blowing hard enough to turn what has so far been a benign sandbelt course into a serious challenge.

“Wind is the protection to this golf course … I’m quite happy with the wind. I feel like my game suits that kind of golf so I have no problem with the wind,” Poulter added.

Two shots is a good lead at this stage, but in spite of what the English Ryder Cup star is saying, he may not be feeling quite as secure as he would have liked for not too far back in the chasing pack are some dangerous big guns, not the least of them being the in-form World No 1 Luke Donald, who was only at 3-under after a second round 70, but has been making a habit lately of playing some of his best golf at the weekends.

Former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, one of the strongly-fancied local favourites, who is at 5-under after a scorching, best-of-the-day 66 is also on his tail with his sights set high.

Donald endured an up-and-down day that could have been considerably better, getting to four-under early in his round when he made back-to-back birdies at two of the most difficult holes on the course – the par-four sixth and short par-three seventh – but then stumbling into trouble at the eighth to give back both shots immediately.

Despite all this however, he still sees himself as a threat.

“I hit a lot of good shots today but I’ve been struggling on the greens,” he said.

“I’m finding it hard to see the line and missing my fair share of chances for birdie.

“Hopefully I’m saving them all for the weekend, Donald added

Ogilvy looked flat early in his round before sparking a charge at the par-five ninth with a chip in for eagle from the back of the green.

Four more birdies, along with one dropped shot, followed on the back nine for the Victorian as he finished the day tied with Brendan Jones, Nathan Green, Brent McCullough, Kieran Pratt and Peter Lonard at five-under.

Lonard looked as if he was going to finish higher up the leaderboard than he did when he birdied his eighth and ninth holes, the 17th and 18th, to move into a share of the lead at seven-under, but the 44-year-old dropped three shots in a row on his back nine to finish with a 70.

After a slow first day, Italian draw card Matteo Manassero fared much better on the second day, the 18-year-old adding a 67 to follow his disastrous 76 on Thursday to make the cut by just one shot with playing partner Robert Allenby.

Notable missed cuts included those of veteran Australians Peter O’Malley and Paul Gow as well as New Zealand’s former US Open champion Michael Campbell and American Jeff Maggert.

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