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RANCHO MIRAGE, California (Reuters) - New Zealand's Lydia Ko battled strong winds on her front nine before grinding out a one-under-par 71 in the ANA Inspiration first round on Thursday to equal an LPGA Tour record for sub-par scores.
The world number one took advantage of calmer conditions after the turn with two late birdies, covering her last nine holes in two-under 34 to match Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam's run of 29 consecutive rounds under par on the circuit.
However, the chance to reach Sorenstam's benchmark was totally off Ko's radar as she focused on the challenge of trying to scramble pars on a tough layout in hot and blustery conditions in the opening women's major of the year.
"Today I was so busy trying to make up-and-downs, or trying to make a good two-putt or make some birdies," the 17-year-old told reporters after ending the round one stroke off the early lead.
"I really wasn't hitting my driver well, and here the rough can get pretty thick. When you're in that position, a record was the last thing I was thinking about."
Ko, who has already landed six LPGA Tour titles but has yet to claim her first major crown, mixed five birdies with four bogeys to remain in early contention.
She did well to salvage par on the seventh, her 16th hole of the day to leave her level for the round but then struck a superb tee shot to a foot at the par-three eighth.
Ko calmly knocked in the birdie putt and parred the ninth to drew level with Sorenstam in the record books.
"Overall I'm happy with where I am for this tournament," said the teen, who became the youngest golfer to hold top spot in the world rankings by tying for second place at the LPGA's season-opening event in January.
"It's just pretty cool to tie Annika's record."
Editing by Steve Keating.