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Lee leads top-ranked Ko at LPGA Palos Verdes

Minjee Lee
Minjee Lee

LOS ANGELES: Australia's Minjee Lee fired an eight-under par 63 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead over world number one Ko Jin-young in the first round of the LPGA Palos Verdes Championship.

Lee, coming off a tie for third at the LA Open, just up the road from this week's venue in Palos Verdes Estates, carded eight birdies.

That included five birdies on her second nine holes -- the front nine on the hilly course, where Lee said she practised sparingly this week in part because it pays "to keep your legs fresh."

"There are a lot of birdie opportunities starting the front nine," said Lee, who counts a major title at last year's Evian Championship among her six LPGA victories.

"Even, like, the first hole and the second and third, they're all wedges in. I just think there are a lot of opportunities in a row that you can kind of capitalise on."

While Lee is seeking to build on her solid showing at Wilshire Country Club last week, Ko is seeking a bounce-back performance.

The South Korean star was tied for the lead with eventual champion Nasa Hataoka late in the third round, but recorded a quadruple-bogey eight at the penultimate hole and eventually ended the week tied for 21st.

"Before starting today's round, I just remind (myself) just golf is golf," Ko said. "Don't think about last week. Starting again, new routine.

"Get the routine like step by step, and don't think about future. Just feel my body and feel my mind and just enjoy."

With that mindset, Ko shook off an early bogey at the 13th and made the turn one-under after birdies at 15 and 18.

Then she strung together six straight birdies from the second through the seventh to power up the leaderboard with a 64.

Ko said the 6,258-yard Palos Verdes course, with its small greens, offered an interesting challenge.

"This week is shorter than last week. Greens are really, really small and we have to focus. Middle of the green is just like maximum 20 feet for putt.

"So, yeah, it's kind of fun, this course. I'm enjoying."

England's Charley Hull, Thailand's Moriya Jutanugarn and American Jennifer Chang shared third on 65.

Both Chang and Moriya had six birdies without a bogey in their six-under efforts, while Hull had eight birdies and to bogeys.

It was a further stroke back to Switzerland's Albane Valenzuela and Scotland's Gemma Dryburgh. -- AFP

LPGA Palos Verdes Championship scores

First round (USA unless noted, par-71):

63 - Minjee Lee (AUS)

64 - Ko Jin-young (KOR)

65 - Charley Hull (ENG), Moriya Jutanugarn (THA), Jennifer Chang

66 - Gemma Dryburgh (SCO), Albane Valenzuela (SUI)

67 - Pauline Roussin-Bouchard (FRA), Megan Khang, Hannah Green (AUS), Ayaka Furue (JPN), Liu Ruixin (CHN)

68 - Agathe Laisne (FRA), Ryann O'Toole, Ana Belac (SLO), Janie Jackson, Kelly Tan (MAS), Annie Park, Allisen Corpuz, Lee Min (KOR)

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