Thompson enjoys happy return

Lexi Thompson hitting a shot on the fairway of the fourth hole during her first round of 69 at the ANA Inspiration on the Dinah Shore course at Mission Hills Country Club on Thursday.
Lexi Thompson hitting a shot on the fairway of the fourth hole during her first round of 69 at the ANA Inspiration on the Dinah Shore course at Mission Hills Country Club on Thursday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

American cards a 69 for joint-second spot at Mission Hills, where she won her only Major

RANCHO MIRAGE (California) • Back at the venue of the biggest win of her career, and also her greatest heartbreak, Lexi Thompson used a hot putter to be a stroke off the lead after the opening day of the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills.

The world No. 9's sole Major victory came at the same Dinah Shore course at the then-Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2014.

Three years later, though, she was in tears, after incurring a four-stroke penalty for a putting-rule violation on the way to losing a play-off to South Korea's Ryu So-yeon.

While Thompson found an ample serving of rough more often than she would have liked on a day when her driving was not the straightest, she was happy after birdieing the par-five 18th to finish with a three-under 69 on Thursday.

Only five in the field of 112 women in the first Major of the season managed to score in the 60s and fellow American Ally McDonald, still title-less in her third year on tour, took the lead with a 68.

Increasing winds made the going difficult in the afternoon, when the winter rains already made it tough with the deep grass framing the narrow fairways.

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    Fairways Lexi Thompson hit in round one. But she still made 11 greens in regulation to give herself a chance.

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    Putts she took.

Said Thompson: "It was a little bit of an up-and-down day. I hit some great shots and then hit some poor ones off the tee. I think I should have hit a lot more fairways.

"I made some great putts, which is always a big confidence-booster for me. Overall, I could have hit it better, but still not complaining."

She was joined by Sweden's Linnea Strom and South Koreans Ko Jin-young and Kim Hyo-joo on 69.

Defending champion Pernilla Lindberg of Sweden battled to a 73, one shot better than American Michelle Wie, who was five over early before righting the ship with four straight birdies.

Ko, meanwhile, continued the sizzling form that has made her the hottest player in the women's game over the past few weeks.

In her last three LPGA starts, the fifth-ranked Ko has finished second, first and third, and it was another good day at the office.

Asked what the key to her round was, she kept it simple, attributing her solid round to "hitting the fairway, the green and two-putt".

Her compatriot Kim also came into the event in form after shooting 62 in the final round of the Kia Classic last Sunday. It showed in her first-round score during which "everything really came together".

She added: "I really wanted to be able to take that level into this week of a Major.

"My chipping was great. That's how I was able to get a low score."

While McDonald birdied all four of the par-fives, she was determined not to let herself get carried away after just three career top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour.

She said: "In this position that I've never been in, it's so easy to get ahead of yourself.

"I know that on the very first day, a great round is awesome, but there is so much more golf left to play.

"I played the par-fives really well, which is exciting. On a Major championship golf course, you have to take advantage of par-fives."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2019, with the headline 'Thompson enjoys happy return'. Print Edition | Subscribe