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Ko makes bright start to windy first major

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 31/03/2017
Lydia Ko in action during the ANA Inspiration tournament. © JEff Gross/Getty Images Lydia Ko in action during the ANA Inspiration tournament.

Lydia Ko has survived a strong but brief buffeting to be well placed after the first day of the year's opening women's major tournament in California.

The Kiwi world No.1 and defending champion completed just five holes and was two-under at the ANA Inspiration before play was suspended on Thursday.

High winds steadily built throughout the afternoon at Mission Hills Country in Rancho Mirage, reaching a point unacceptable to organisers at 4pm local time.

Ko was among the last to tee off and handled the day's worst conditions with aplomb.

Teeing off on the back nine, the 19-year-old shot birdies on the 11th and 13th holes.

She holds a share of eighth place, with nearly half of the 107-strong field still to complete their round.

The outright leader is leading French golfer Karine Icher, who was an early finisher on five-under 67. A round featuring seven birdies propelled world No.36 Icher to a one-stroke lead over American Michelle Wie and three Koreans - So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and amateur Eun Jeong Seong.

Friday will be busy for Ko, who must complete the remaining 13 holes and then play 18 more almost immediately.

Winless since last July, she is seeking improvement from her modest putting efforts so far in 2017.

Three successive top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour hinted she was returning to her best but she followed up with a rare missed cut outcome at last week's KIA Classic in California.

Ko's 75-week reign as world No.1 is under threat this week from No.2 Ariya Jutanugarn.

If the in-form Thai wins on Sunday, Ko will lose her ranking top dog status unless she places in the top five.

Jutanugarn was one-over through seven holes when play was called off.

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