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Lydia Ko handy after blustery first round

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 31/03/2017
Lydia Ko © Getty Images Lydia Ko

Defending champion Lydia Ko has battled her way through strong winds at the first women's major of the year in California to sit just off the pace after the first round.

Teeing off on the back nine, the Kiwi world No.1 completed five holes and was two-under at the ANA Inspiration before play was suspended at Mission Hills Country in Rancho Mirage.

Gusts of 72 km/h bent palm trees and blew marked balls off greens. With higher winds forecast, officials called an end to play.

On resumption, Ko bogeyed the par-four 15th before recovering with a birdie at the par-five 18th.

She went on to finish her opening round on two-under 70, three shots astray of the leading trio of Caroline Masson (Germany), Frenchwoman Karine Icher and US golfer Cristie Kerr.

Ko will have only a brief rest before teeing off for her second round as she looks to rediscover her winning touch.

Winless since last July, she looked to be closing in on her best with three successive top-10 finishes before a rare missed cut outcome at last week's KIA Classic in California.

Her 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 the top rank - unless she places in the top five.

Jutanugarn joined Ko in firing a two-under 70 for the first round at Rancho Mirage.

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