Flawless Lee grabs LPGA Kia Classic lead

AFP| Updated: Mar 27, 2015, 10:35 AM IST
Flawless Lee grabs LPGA Kia Classic lead

South Korea`s Lee Mi-Rim had seven birdies without a bogey in a seven-under par 65 on Thursday to take a one-shot lead in the LPGA Kia Classic.

Lee, who missed the course record at Aviara Golf Club by one stroke, birdied all four of the par-five holes, taking the lead with an eight-foot birdie putt at her 14th hole of the day -- the par-five fifth and adding one more birdie at the eighth.

"My long game didn`t feel good, my swing didn`t feel good, but I made a lot of putts," said Lee, winner of two LPGA titles last year who had a one-stroke lead over former world number one Tseng Ya-ni of Taiwan.

Lee said she`d practiced "a lot" since struggling to a 77th-place finish in Phoenix last week.

"I changed the grip," she said.

Tseng, chasing her first LPGA victory since a 2012 win in nearby La Costa, capped her 66 with a four-foot birdie at 18.

She gave herself the chance with an awkward shot from near a fairway bunker, standing in the sand and choking up on her seven-iron.

"I never thought I`d be that close," Tseng said of the shot that bounced and rolled toward the cup.

Tseng said she had a brief moment of worry that she might find the water to the right of the green.

"I was like `Oh, if I hit it in the water I just go drop another ball. I`ve got a few birdies in my pocket and should be OK,`" said Tseng, whose round also included a 20-foot eagle putt from the fringe at the 10th.

Current world number one Lydia Ko, the New Zealand 17-year-old who caused a sensation when she reached the summit of the rankings in February, was among a group of four players sharing third on five-under 67.

She was joined by Australian Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, American Cristie Kerr and China`s Lin Xiyu.

Ko has two victories worldwide this year, winning the Women`s Australian Open and the New Zealand Open in back-to-back weeks.

She has 10 straight top-10 finishes and has broken par in her last 25 LPGA Tour rounds, and is warming up this week for a bid for a first major title at next week`s ANA Inspiration, formerly the Kraft Nabisco Championship, in Rancho Mirage.

"It`s not easy," Ko said. "I`m trying to take one round at a time, one shot at a time... Playing weeks back to back and all courses just being different, I think that`s the hard thing. But I`m just trying to keep focused."

Former world number ones Park In-Bee and Stacy Lewis, now ranked second and third in the world, led a group of 10 players on four-under 68 that included fourth-ranked Kim Hyo-Joo -- who won her second LPGA title in Phoenix on Sunday.