Golf: Anna Nordqvist leads in search of LPGA Classic three-peat

Anna Nordqvist of Sweden hits her second shot on the third hole during the first round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer on the Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club in Galloway, New Jersey, on June 2, 2017.
Anna Nordqvist of Sweden hits her second shot on the third hole during the first round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer on the Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club in Galloway, New Jersey, on June 2, 2017. PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

New York (AFP) - Sweden's Anna Nordqvist got off to a hot start in her bid for a third straight LPGA ShopRite Classic crown on Friday with a seven-under par 64.

Nordqvist birdied her first three holes at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway, New Jersey, and finished the day with a one-stroke lead over South Koreans Lee Jeong-Eun and Jenny Shin, Thailand's Moriya Jutanugarn and American Jennifer Song.

"Starting with birdie, birdie, birdie obviously was a great feeling this morning. I hit some really good shots, so I was just happy to get it going early and make the turn a couple under and then just keep it going from there," said Nordqvist.

"I hit the ball really well today and got a few putts going early, and then kept hitting my wedges really well," added the 29-year-old said after a round that included nine birdies and two bogeys.

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"Lowest round I've had in a while, so definitely makes for a sweet afternoon."

But Nordqvist is enjoying a solid season, with one victory already.

"The biggest difference this year is I've been happy on and off the course," Nordqvist said.

"I have fewer people around me and so I am just trying to do my own thing a little bit more." With a change at the top of the world rankings looming on Sunday, South Korea's Ryu So-Yeon made little headway in making sure she's the one to supplant world No. 1 Lydia Ko at the end of the tournament.

According to LPGA projections, Ko's reign will end this week with either Ryu or Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn taking over.

Neither Ko nor Ariya are playing this week.

World No. 3 Ryu, who needs to finish at least third to have a chance to reach number one, opened with a three-over 74.