Late birdie burst lifts Choi to LPGA Kia Classic lead

Los Angeles: South Korea’s Chella Choi birdied her last three holes on the way to a
seven-under-par 65 on Thursday and a two-shot lead in the LGPA Kia Classic in Carlsbad, California.
Choi took a little while to warm up on a chilly morning at Aviara Golf Club, but she finished with seven birdies and no bogeys.
“My putter really helped me, so I really enjoyed it today,” said Choi, who won her lone LPGA Tour title at the 2015 Marathon Classic.
“I like this golf course,” Choi said. “I have really good memories here.
“The fairways are easy and the greens are small — If I hit the fairways and greens a lot of birdie chances out there.”
She was two strokes in front of Northern Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow, who had five birdies without a bogey in her 67.
“Really consistent day,” Meadow said. “Just hit a bunch of fairways and a bunch of greens and rolled some putts in, so pretty stress-free golf.”
Nine of the top 10 players in the world are in the field for the last tournament before the first major of the year — the ANA Inspiration.
Only sixth-ranked Nelly Korda is taking the week off.
World number one Park Sung-hyun, No 2 Ariya Jutanugarn, No 3 Minjee Lee, No 4 Ko Jin-young Ko and No 8 Park In-bee were in a big group sharing third on 68.
Park Sung-hyun won last month in Singapore and Ko is coming off a victory on Sunday in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, Arizona.
“Just play now,” Ko said of her approach, not thinking about the past or the future. “Just think about now.”
Defending champion Ji Eun-hee headed another big group on 69.
American Cristie Kerr, the 2015 winner, had a hole-in-one on the 143-yard 14th in a two-over 74.— AFP