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(Reuters) - South Korean Park In-bee produced a bogey-free five-under 67 to join Ai Miyazato, Brittany Lang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff at the top of the Kia Classic leaderboard on Thursday, with world number one Lydia Ko a shot behind after a strong back nine.
Ko, who teed off at the 10th, struggled on her front nine and made the turn at one-over, but she turned it around on with a sizzling inward half, picking up five birdies to post a four-under 68 in the first round in Carlsbad, southern California.
Ko said the lush rough and firm, fast greens had provided a stiff test.
"I was striking the ball really good but I just couldn’t get any putts rolling (early)," she told reporters. "But It was good to see a couple drop on my back nine.
"I was in the rough a few times. The rough is lush. The club just turns over. If you’re getting a good lie you’re getting lucky. That’s why it’s important to hit it along the fairways."
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford