By Matt Smith
ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Matchplay titan Ian Poulter credited last week's EurAsia Cup for restoring his best form and five birdies in an incomplete third round earned him a share of the lead at the Abu Dhabi Championship on Saturday.
The Englishman is a Ryder Cup talisman but his performances on the European Tour have been steadily worsening, the last of his 12 titles arrived in 2012 and he managed only one top-10 finish last year.
Poulter, though, rediscovered his verve and swagger at the EurAsia Cup by scoring maximum points as Europe beat Asia 18 1/2 to 5 1/2.
"It's match-play golf and you go head-to-head and whenever you go head-to-head you get the juices going. That's obviously nice as the first tournament of the year," the 40-year-old told reporters.
"It's done me some good."
His charge in Abu Dhabi went almost unnoticed as attention was focused on world number one Jordan Spieth, third-ranked Rory McIlroy, number five Henrik Stenson and sixth-ranked Rickie Fowler.
Poulter was five under after 36 holes, five off the pace, but then four birdies in five holes from the eighth catapulted him to the top of the leaderboard on 10 under alongside McIlroy, Fowler, South African Branden Grace and Dutchman Joost Luiten.
The leaders were all beaten by the fading light and Poulter must return early in the morning to play his remaining five holes.
"I holed a couple of nice putts, which was key to moving up the board, I’m quite happy," he said.
"It's nice to get off to a good start to 2016 and hopefully I can continue that through tomorrow and have a good finish."
McIlroy and Fowler have played nine and 11 holes respectively, Grace has two to go and Luiten has eight remaining.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)