Sat, Apr 04, 2015 - Page 19 News List

Lydia Ko ties record of 29 straight rounds under par

STREAK:Ko carded a one-under 71 to match Annika Sorenstam’s record, putting her in 10th place, four strokes behind the first-round leader, Morgan Pressel

AP, RANCHO MIRAGE, California

Lexi Thompson figured young friend Lydia Ko was dead in the woods to the left of the seventh fairway.

“I didn’t know she had that kind of shot because she was on an upslope,” Thompson said. “I didn’t know she could keep it under the trees.”

Trying to tie Annika Sorenstam’s LPGA Tour record for consecutive rounds under par, the 17-year-old Ko was even par with three holes left on Thursday in the first round of the ANA Inspiration, and she was stuck behind five large trees.

“It was a pretty nasty place to be,” Ko said.

To escape, she needed to a hit a sweeping, low hook.

She did, with the ball scampering onto the green and stopping pin-high 25 feet to the right.

“I said: ‘I’m going to try to hit the biggest hook,”’ Ko said. “It would have probably looked really bad, that swing on camera, but it ended up being OK... I had to hit it low enough and had to hit a slinging hook, so I didn’t end up in the bunker.”

The New Zealander two-putted for par, then hit a 6-iron to 18 inches on the 158-yard eighth to set up the birdie she needed to get under par. She closed with a par on the par-five ninth for a one-under 71 to match Sorenstam’s record of 29 straight rounds under par.

Ko was tied for 10th, four strokes behind first-round leader Morgan Pressel in the first major championship of the season. Pressel won the 2007 tournament to become the youngest major champion at 18 years, 10 months, 9 days.

“I kept the ball in play,” Pressel said. “I was never really in terrible position.”

Ai Miyazato was second at 68, and Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, Ryu So-yeon, Alison Walshe and Gwladys Nocera shot 69. The 54-year-old Inkster won in 1984 and 1989.

“I actually have been hitting the ball fairly well the last couple of weeks and I’ve been out with a bulky putter,” Inkster said. “Today, I made a few putts and I made great par on 16.”

The top six played in the afternoon, long after strong wind tested the morning starters on their opening nines at tree-lined Mission Hills.

Thompson, the defending champion, had a 72 playing alongside Ko in the morning.

“I knew she would salvage the round,” Thompson said. “She might have been a little bit off today, but she has an amazing short game and hit some incredible shots.”

Kaohsiung native Candie Kung of the US shot an even-par 72, while Taiwan’s Hsu Wei-ling carded one-over 73. Taiwanese former world No. 1 Yani Tseng shot a two-over 74. Their compatriot Teresa Lu carded four-over 76.

The top-ranked Ko started the streak in the first round of her victory last year in the season-ending event. Her worldwide streak is 32, counting her three rounds in her victory in the Ladies European Tour’s New Zealand Women’s Open.

Sorenstam set the LPGA Tour mark in 2004.

With the wind gusting to 20 mph, Ko opened with a 14-foot birdie putt on No. 10 and made an 8-footer on 12. She bogeyed 13, hitting into the front right bunker and leaving a 25-foot putt.

After Thompson hit into the front water on the 133-yard 14th with the wind gusting to between 40kph and 48kph, Ko hit pin-high to the right and made the 15-footer.

“I had to play like 12 yards [for the wind], so I went up a club and a half,” Ko said.

Ko bogeyed three of the next four holes to make the turn at one-over.

Playing into a right-to-left crosswind on the par-four 15th, she drove into the front of the left fairway bunker. A half-foot from the lip, she chipped 30 yards to the fairway and hit her 6-iron third to 35 feet.

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