Ko in early contention at Mission Hills

Thu Apr 2, 2015 7:34pm EDT
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

RANCHO MIRAGE, California (Reuters) - World number one Lydia Ko moved into contention for the ANA Inspiration in record-equalling style on Thursday as South Korea's Choi Na-yeon seized a share of the early lead in the opening round.

New Zealander Ko, watched by the biggest galleries of the day, battled strong winds on her front nine before grinding out a one-under-par 71 at a sun-baked Mission Hills Country Club to equal an LPGA Tour record for sub-par scores.

The richly talented 17 year old, who has to win a major but has already claimed six LPGA titles, matched Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam's run of 29 consecutive rounds under par on the circuit, achieved by the Swede in 2004.

That left Ko a stroke off the early pace set by 2012 U.S. Women's Open champion Choi, England's Charley Hull and American Austin Ernst in the opening women's major of the season.

"Overall I'm happy with where I am for this tournament," said Ko, 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."

Hull, who won last year's Lalla Meryem Cup in a playoff to claim her first title on the Ladies European Tour, was delighted with her 70 after arriving in the California desert late on Monday night.

"I'm starting to get the feel of the golf course now," the 19 year old from Kettering said after mixing four birdies with two bogeys. "I like everything about this course. I like the way it's laid out.   Continued...

Lydia Ko reacts to her tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills CC - Dinah Shore Tournament Course. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports