(Reuters) – Back at the site of the biggest win of her career and also her greatest heartbreak, American Lexi Thompson used a hot putter to earn a share of the first-round lead at the ANA Inspiration in California on Thursday.
Thompson complimented her caddie after switching clubs for her pitch into the par-five 18th, which she birdied for a three-under-par 69 matched by South Koreans Ko Jin-young and Kim Hyo-joo at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage.
They led by one stroke from a large group including American Jessica Korda and New Zealander Lydia Ko with half the field back in the clubhouse.
An ample serving of rough greeted the 112-woman field for the first major of the year, and Thompson found it more often than she would have liked on a day when her driving was not the straightest.
“It was a little bit of an up-and-down day,” American Thompson told reporters. “I hit some great shots and then hit some poor ones off the tee.
“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.”
Thompson’s lone major victory came at Mission Hills in 2014, but three years later she was in tears after incurring a four-stroke penalty for a putting rules violation on the way to losing a playoff to Ryu So-yeon.
Joint leader Ko continued the sizzling form that has made her the hottest player in the women’s game over the past few weeks.
She has a first, second and third in her past three LPGA starts, and Thursday was another good day at the office.
Asked what the key to her round was, Ko was succinct.
“I hit the fairway, so hit the green, two-putt, that’s it,” she said.
Compatriot Kim also came into the event in form after shooting 62 in the final round at the Kia Classic on Sunday.
“I really wanted to be able to take that level into this week of a major,” she said. “Everything really came together today.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ian Ransom)