RANCHO MIRAGE (California) • Azahara Munoz burst out of a form slump at an opportune time and Ai Miyazato's renaissance continued at golf's ANA Inspiration on Thursday as the pair shared the opening-round lead in the first women's Major of the year.
Spain's Munoz and Japan's Miyazato each carded rounds of five-under 67 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, to share top spot, one clear of Scotland's Catriona Matthew, South African Lee-Anne Pace and another Japanese, Shiho Oyama.
Munoz, who has failed to finish higher than 33rd this season and has not recorded a Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) top 10 since August last year, carded six birdies but dropped back with a bogey on her final hole.
"Obviously one round is not going to completely change my confidence but I am feeling good," Munoz said.
"I have actually been playing really well and my scores haven't shown it at all. I think it was just a matter of time until things started happening and it did today. Hopefully it stays like that."
Miyazato, world No. 1 back in 2010, sat 157th in the rankings before finishing third last week at the Kia Classic.
The 30-year-old opened with four birdies in her opening six holes and then added another to her tally on the 18th to prove her improvement in form was not a false dawn.
"I was really happy to play my game again. I was kind of struggling the last few years but I got through," she said.
"I am still in the process but I know I am moving forward and I feel good."
Ryann O'Toole, Gerina Piller and 2014 champion Lexi Thompson shared top American honours with 69s to be tied for sixth, while world No. 1 Lydia Ko rode a roller-coaster with four birdies and two bogeys in a round of 70.
"I was striking my irons and everything pretty good but I didn't hit my driver very well, especially on the back nine, so I think that's where my bogeys kind of came from," the New Zealander admitted after taking a share of 14th.
"I gave myself quite a few looks up the hill for birdie but I just wasn't able to commit to my speed and I left quite a few out there that were on line but short. That's the last thing you want to be doing.
"But a two-under start to the first Major of the year, I am pretty pleased with that."
Defending champion Brittany Lincicome settled for an even-par 72.
LPGA ANA INSPIRATION
Day 2 &3: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 7am & tomorrow, 5am