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Trio takes lead at rain-hit Evian

BECKY Brewerton shot a 5-under 67 for a share of the first-round lead at the Evian Masters in France on Thursday, and Michelle Wie rescued a disappointing opening round with two late birdies.

South Korean duo Choi Na-yeon and Kim In-kyung tied Brewerton for the lead in windy and overcast conditions that forced play to be suspended for one hour because of late-afternoon thunder.

Kim hit an eagle on the 11th hole, while Choi had three birdies on both the front and back nine and only one bogey.

"I just holed out with a 9-iron, so it was great," Kim said, recalling her spectacular eagle shot. "This course should fit my game because of the narrow fairways and small greens."

Wie struggled initially with bogeys on No. 3, 6 and 13 before birdies on the last two for a 73. Defending champion Helen Alfredsson of Sweden, chasing her fourth title at Evian, sank four birdies to finish at 2-under 70.

Top-ranked Lorena Ochoa of Mexico, teeing off with Alfredsson and Marianne Skarpnord of Norway, double-bogeyed her opening hole and then had bogeys on 16 and 18 to finish an inconsistent day at a sluggish 3 over.

Wendy Ward of the United States hit a 68 to stay in touch with the leaders. South Korea's Ji Young-oh, England's Karen Stupples, and Karen Icher of France also hit rounds of 68 to join Ward at one behind.

Brewerton, of Wales, birdied four of the last five holes on the front nine, and was on pace to match Alfredsson's course record 63 after moving to 5-under after the 10th.

But bogeys on 13 and 14 curtailed that bid, although Brewerton responded with two more birdies.

"My short game was excellent," the 26-year-old Brewerton said. "I hit quite a lot of shots in very close on the front nine, so didn't have much work left to do for birdie."

Brewerton has more reasons to succeed at Europe's richest women's tournament than just the US$3.25-million purse. Following her win at the Spanish Open last week, Brewerton is desperate to play for Europe in next month's Solheim Cup.

"It would be nice to get back-to-back wins, which Diana Luna did a couple of weeks ago," said Brewerton, a former English Open champion. "Martin Kaymer has done it on the men's (tour) recently, so fingers crossed it will be my turn."

Brewerton's round is certain to have impressed European Solheim Cup captain Alison Nicholas, who was watching her at the 18th hole.

Many points

"Alison has been at an awful lot of tournaments this year," said Brewerton, who made her rookie Solheim Cup appearance two years ago. "She's got her hands full trying to follow everyone around who has a chance to get in. So much could happen these two weeks, because there are so many points to play for."

The 19-year-old Wie, who is bidding for a Solheim Cup spot for the US team, missed an easy par putt on the sixth hole, but recovered to end the day on a high note.

"I couldn't get anything going, couldn't make any putts," Wie said. "(I have) three more days to make it up. (Holes) 17 and 18 were a real positive boost for tomorrow."

The dark afternoon skies and slightly windy conditions made life uncomfortable, and Wie was fortunate to finish just before heavy rain and thunder forced players off.

"I don't remember it being this windy," Wie said. "I couldn't really give myself that many birdie putts."

She needs a big improvement if she is to collect any points for the Solheim Cup. Wie is in 16th place on the points list, with the top 10 getting automatic spots on captain Beth Daniel's team.

"For sure, you definitely do want to play in it. But when I'm out there I can't think of (the Solheim Cup)," Wie said.

US Open champion Ji Eun-hee of South Korea shot a 73. She birdied holes 7 and 8, but struggled on the back nine with a double bogey on 10, before a birdie on the 18th.


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