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Gal leads LPGA Titleholders as Ko, 16, makes pro debut

Lydia Ko, left, shoots 1-under 71 at the LPGA Titleholders and sits five back of leader Sandra Gal.

Lydia Ko, left, shoots 1-under 71 at the LPGA Titleholders and sits five back of leader Sandra Gal.

NAPLES — Lydia Ko didn't feel any different on the first tee Thursday than she had at any other LPGA Tour event she has played, even the two that she won. It just took her a few hours before she started producing the kind of golf that has brought so much attention to her pro debut.

The 16-year-old from New Zealand had double bogey on her third hole but three birdies on the back nine at Tiburon Golf Club for 1-under 71 in the season-finale LPGA Titleholders.

Ko was seven shots behind Sandra Gal, who opened with six straight birdies on her way to 64.

Gal had a one-shot lead over Rebecca Lee-Bentham. Among those two back were Lexi Thompson and Anna Nordqvist, who can make more money ($700,000) by winning than she has all year. The winner gets the largest payoff in women's golf out of the $2 million purse.

Seminole's Brittany Lincicome was 4 under, and Tampa's Cindy LaCrosse was 3 under.

The starter introduced Ko by asking the gallery of about 100 to "welcome to the LPGA Tour Lydia Ko." She calmly hit driver down the left side of the fairway on the par-5 opening hole.

"Just normal," Ko said. "I didn't feel too odd or special or slow or whatever (Thursday). That actually surprised me. I thought I would be much more nervous.

"And actually, one of the good things was I wasn't thinking about any money or related stuff. I just tried to play my game, which was obviously very helpful."

World Cup of Golf: Representing the United States for the first time, Kevin Streelman shared the first round lead with Thomas Bjorn at 5-under 66 in Melbourne, Australia. K.J. Choi, Martin Laird and Stuart Manley were at 67. Jason Day was at 68. American Matt Kuchar had 71.

The Americans and Denmark were tied for the team lead. The World Cup had been a team event, but an individual stroke-play competition was added this year to mirror the format to be used at the 2016 Olympics. The system used to determine World Cup entries — world rankings and the number of players eligible from each country based on them — will be used at the Games. Up to two players per country could qualify for the World Cup, four if they were within the rankings' top 15.

Gal leads LPGA Titleholders as Ko, 16, makes pro debut 11/21/13 [Last modified: Thursday, November 21, 2013 10:12pm]

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