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Late birdies lift Amanda Blumenherst in to lead

Amanda Blumenherst birdied the final four holes for a 7-under 66 and a one-stroke lead over Germany’s Sanda Gal on Thursday in the Kia Classic.

Blumenherst, seeking her first LPGA Tour victory, had nine birdies and two bogeys in her opening round on the Industry Hills Golf Club course at Pacific Palms.

The American took advantage of tranquil morning conditions on the rain-softened course.

“The fairways are extremely soft right now. So are the greens,” Blumenherst said. “It’s playing a lot longer than it says on the card, which actually suits me because I’m one of the longer ball-strikers.”

Gal also had four consecutive birdies on her back nine. She finished with seven birdies and a bogey.

“It’s a ball-striker’s course,” Gal said. “You’ve got to hit the fairway and be precise with your yardages. That’s my game.”

Michelle Wie birdied the par-5 18th for a 68. The Kia endorser, returning to the tour after finishing college exams, played in chilly conditions late in the afternoon.

“That (length) is an advantage, but it’s a very tight golf course, so you have to be on the fairway,” Wie said. “You have to have a combination of both.”

Second-ranked Jiyai Shin was four strokes back at 70 along with Reilley Rankin, Mika Miyazato, I.K. Kim, Catriona Matthew and Amy Hung.

Top-ranked Yani Tseng, the winner of the season-opening LPGA Thailand and three other worldwide events this year, opened with a 71. Karrie Webb, coming off her second straight victory Sunday in Phoenix, shot a 72.

The tournament is the tour’s first in the Los Angeles area in six years. Last year at La Costa in Carlsbad, Hee Kyung Seo won her first LPGA Tour title, beating Inbee Park by six strokes. Seo shot a 77 on Thursday.

Dori Carter was unable to finish the final hole because of darkness.

Scores

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