Saturday, February 24, 2018
Golf

Miyazato leads after first round of LPGA's first major of season

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Azahara Munoz was so concerned about the water fronting the par-5 18th green that she ended up in nearly as bad a place Thursday in the ANA Inspiration.

It ended up costing her a bogey that dropped her into a tie for the first-round lead with Ai Miyazato at 5-under 67 in the LPGA's first major championship of the year.

In breezy conditions, Munoz was well back off the tee on her final hole and hit her second shot into the right fairway bunker. Wary of hitting it into the water, the Spaniard hit her third through the green to the back fringe. That left a difficult downhill putt that she did well to hit to 7 feet.

"Obviously, I didn't want to hit it in the water," Munoz said. "I know you're not supposed to think that, but the lie wasn't the best. It was a little down, and the wind was really into my face, so we tried to play past the pin, and I mean, the contact was really good, so it just came a little too long and it was quite an impossible putt from there. But to be honest, I'm glad it just flew the water."

Miyazato played in the morning before the wind picked up at Mission Hills.

The 5-foot-2 Japanese player birdied four of the first six holes and closed with a 12-foot birdie putt on 18. She won the last of her nine tour titles in 2012.

"I'm definitely happy to see my name on the board, but it's just the first day, and it's a long way to go," Miyazato said.

No. 1 in the world for 11 weeks in 2010, she is 90th now after climbing 67 spots Monday with a third-place finish last week in Carlsbad. It was her first top-10 finish since 2013.

"That was huge," she said. "I definitely gained my confidence, and I really felt good with my game again."

Scotland's Catriona Matthew, South Africa's Lee-Anne Pace and Japan's Shiho Oyama were a stroke back. Lexi Thompson, the 2014 winner, was at 69 in a large group that included Gerina Piller and South Korean stars In Gee Chun and Ha Na Jang.

Top-ranked Lydia Ko opened with 70. The 18-year-old New Zealander won Sunday at Carlsbad. Second-ranked Inbee Park and Michelle Wie also shot 70.

Defending champion Brittany Lincicome of Seminole and 2011 winner Stacy Lewis shot 72. Last year, Lincicome eagled the final hole of regulation and beat Lewis on the third hole of a playoff.

Brooke Henderson opened with 73, playing in front of by far the largest galleries in the morning wave. "It's super cool," the 18-year-old Canadian said. "Every round it seems there are more fans, and not only just from Canada. Though there is a huge Canadian crowd out here this week."

PGA: Charley Hoffman birdied half the holes in his round and had one bogey for 8-under 64 to grab the first-round lead of the Houston Open. Hoffman birdied the first four holes of his back nine, then added another birdie on No. 8 to break out of a four-way tie with Dustin Johnson, Roberto Castro and Scott Brown, who all shot 65. Brown, who was born in Augusta, Ga., has never played the Masters and needs to win to qualify for the tour's first major next week. Among the large group finishing at 67 was the reigning Masters champion, Jordan Spieth. Former Masters champions Phil Mickelson, Charl Schwartzel and Angel Cabrera all posted 69.

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