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LPGA: Gal opens with 64 for one-shot lead

The SportsXchange

NAPLES, Fla. -- A hot start and strong finish gave Sandra Gal the first-round lead in the CME Group Titleholders tournament on Thursday at Tiburn Golf Resort.

Gal, a former University of Florida golfer, opened with birdies on her first six holes, a personal best. She also finished with two birdies for an 8-under-par 64, which tied the tournament record. Gal finished with nine birdies.

Gal has a one-shot lead over Rebecca Lee-Bentham. Shanshan Feng, Anna Nordqvist and Lexi Thompson are tied for third at 6 under.

"I just focused on being real aggressive," Gal said. "I just tried to keep that mindset going. Six in a row. That was kind of fun."

Despite being in what she called "panic mode" before her round, Lee-Bentham opened with a 30 on her front nine and shot a 7-under 65.

"I didn't think this round was actually going to be this good," she said. "I wanted to be more confident in my shots, so I've been trying to figure it out.

"But I guess I was just insecure kind of with my swing. I think my final few shots on the range before I went out, I just told myself to think about tempo and rhythm and not to overthink everything."

Nordqvist could have tied Lee-Bentham but bogeyed the 18th hole.

After winning in Mexico last weekend, Thompson followed with a 6-under 66. She credited her brother, Curtis, with helping her line up putts.

Feng closed her round with an eagle.

Rolex Player of the Year Inbee Park overcame a slow start to shoot a 4-under 68. Defending CME Group Titleholders champion Na Yeon Choi faded with bogeys on two of her last three holes and was at 1-under 71.

Also at 1 under is 16-year-old Lydia Ko, the teen-age phenom who played in her first event as a professional. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan granted her an exemption to turn pro last month.

Ko overcame a double bogey on her third hole and a bogey on her seventh. She had birdies on Nos. 8, 12, 15 and 17.

"I thought I'd be more nervous, but I really wasn't," she said. "If you get angry, it doesn't help your game. Getting that birdie on No. 8 really helped me."
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