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Rungthiwa races to a 1-stroke lead in Shanghai

THAILAND'S Rungthiwa Pangjan carded a 2-under 70 during the first round of the US$50,000 Shanghai Championship yesterday to take a 1-stroke lead over four players in the third leg of the China LPGA Tour's inaugural season.

China's Huang Meihao, Huang Ping and Zhou Qin and Chinese Taipei's Chen Ming-yen shared equal second at the Orient (Shanghai) Sports and Country Club, followed by China's Wu Honglian and Zhang Jie, Chinese Taipei's Ye Ko-chen and Thailand's Tiranan Yoopan at even-par 72.

Yang Hongmei, winner of the Yantai leg in May, was in a group of five players three shots off the pace at 73.

The 31-year-old Rungthiwa, a three-time winner in Thailand last year, sank a five-footer for birdie on her opening hole and then proceeded to play par golf in the hot and sunny weather. She moved into the lead following a birdie two on the 17th in her bogey-free round.

The Bangkok native who finished second at the Thailand Ladies Open earlier this year said she felt right at home as the temperature hovered around 35 degrees Celsius.

"I feel very happy without bogeys today," said Rungthiwa, equal 12th in Beijing in May. "My game was in good shape except my putting. My putting was so-so. Today it was very hot and similar to the weather at home. I'm used to such weather. I am looking forward to the next two rounds and hope to get a good result."

Huang Meihao, a 24-year-old from Guangdong, had a chance to grab a share of the lead but bogeyed the final hole when she missed a one-foot putt. Her round had got off to a strong start when she carded an eagle two on the third hole.

"I had a beautiful drive and left my approach 86 yards out in the second cut of rough. I then holed it with a wedge. My caddie told me I had put it very close to the pin and I was very excited. As we approached the green we could see that the ball had disappeared. I gave my caddie a big bear hug."

Huang, who had two top-five finishes in Chinese Taipei earlier this year, said she was feeling good physically after suffering back problems in Thailand that had kept her from playing for nearly a month.?"Today I had many birdie chances, but missed too many short putts. I am a little disappointed (with the late bogey) but there are two rounds to go. Tomorrow, I will just try my best to make as many birdies as possible."

Australian Susie Mathews, the only non-Asian in the 73-player field, struggled in her China debut, opening with a 6-over 78.


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