Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg closed with back-to-back birdies to grab the first-round lead at the ANA Inspiration with a seven-under par 65.
Lindberg had seven birdies without a bogey at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, California, powering past Japan’s Ayako Uehara and Spain’s Beatriz Recari who shared second place on 66 in the first LPGA major of the season.
American Jessica Korda, South Korea’s Jang Ha-na and Swiss amateur Albane Valenzuela were tied on 67.
Lexi Thompson — who endured a rules nightmare last year that cost her a four-point penalty and a likely victory at Mission Hills last year — headed a group of six players on 68.
Thompson was delighted to get a solid first round under her belt on a course she loves, but which inevitably brings back unwelcome memories of last year.
“I don’t know if I would say it’s a relief,” she said. “I was just really looking forward to just playing this week. I love coming here, and the course can’t be in any better shape. Probably the best I’ve seen it, and the greens are perfect.
“Overall I played really well today. So just going to take that into the next three days,” said Thompson, who added she was touched by the fan support she received.
There was little to celebrate in defending champion Ryu So-yeon’s return. The South Korean, who eventually beat Thompson in a playoff to lift the trophy last year, failed to make a birdie in a three-over 75.
– Lindberg lights it up –
Lindberg teed off on 10 and had three birdies on her outward run. Her four coming in included back-to-back birdies to cap her round.
“I just set a number for myself in my head every day,” she said. “Today, I kind of kept adjusting that all day when I kept making birdies, and I even kind of upped my own number.
“That’s what I’m going to do every day.”
Uehara set the early pace, shaking off an opening bogey to take the clubhouse lead with eight birdies on the day.
“The beginning I had a three-putt, and I kind of played tight,” said Uehara, who relaxed as she strung together three birdies around the turn and finished with two straight birdies.
Recari’s six birdies included three in a row at 10th, 11th and 12th.
“From the beginning I felt very confident,” Recari said after her bogey-free round. “I knew my strategy. I’ll stick to it. Whenever I was in trouble I was actually in a good spot, and I was able to get up-and-down quite easily.”
Korda burst out of the blocks with four straight birdies to start her round. She finished with eight birdies.
Korda is relishing golf, and life, after jaw surgery to correct a severe overbite.
“I didn’t realize how much it affected me until I got the surgery done,” said Korda, who won the Honda LPGA in Thailand in February, her season debut. “I’m just a happy person now. I wake up, no headaches. I get to wake up pain free every day and that’s amazing to me.”