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Castrale races ahead as Feng birdies to third

AMERICAN Nicole Castrale scored birdies by the pair on Thursday to post a 7-under par 65 for a 1-shot lead after the opening round of the LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock in Maryland.

Castrale, with one title to her credit since first joining the tour in 2002, registered four sets of back-to-back birdies on an overcast day at the soggy course where players were allowed to lift, clean and place.

Castrale suffered a blip at the last hole. She drove into the right rough and put her second shot in rough right of the green. Her chip ran 22 feet past the cup and she took two putts for her only bogey of the day.

"The front nine all of my iron shots were going right at the pin," said Castrale, who made six birdies on the front nine. "It was a great feeling."

LPGA Tour rookie Anna Nordqvist of Sweden was one shot back, completing a 66 when she holed out from 40 yards to save par at the 18th in the season's second major championship.

Another stroke back among the early finishers was China's Feng Shanshan, who had six birdies against one bogey for 67.

Pre-tournament favorites did not fare so well.

Tseng Yani of Chinese Taipei, who won last year as a 19-year-old, registered a 1-over 73, one stroke worse than multiple major winners Lorena Ochoa of Mexico and Australian Karrie Webb.

Ochoa bogeyed her last two holes, the eighth and ninth.

"Obviously, I did not have a good finish," world No. 1 Ochoa said. "I am going to go practice some right now before it starts to rain and hopefully have a better day tomorrow."

Tied on 68 were Americans Paige Mackenzie, Stacy Lewis and Moira Dunn, South Koreans Amy Yang, Choi Na-yeon and Aree Song, and South African Ashleigh Simon.

Michelle Wie, seeking her first LPGA title, was in a large group at 2-under 70 along with Park Inbee of South Korea.

"It was an interesting start," Wie, 19, told reporters. "I missed some short ones early on. But it was fun."

Nordqvist missed just one fairway and took only 22 putts in her first major championship round as a professional.

"It's good momentum for tomorrow," Nordqvist told reporters about her spectacular par-save on the final hole.

"It's disappointing if you end bad."


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