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KIKUYO, Kumamoto Pref. Taiwan’s Julie Lu enjoyed a flurry of birdies on the back nine to join South Korean Lee Ji Hee in a tie for the lead at 4-under-par 68 after Friday’s Life Card Ladies first round.

Lu, winless on the Japanese LPGA Tour since capturing the 2004 Katokichi Queens title, had a birdie and a bogey on the front nine before picking up four shots through a seven-hole stretch from the 12th at Kumamoto Kuko Country Club.

Lee, second on last year’s JLPGA money list, had an identical round of five birdies and a bogey. Michie Oba and defending champion Yukari Baba were the only other players to shoot sub-par rounds and both closed out three shots off the lead.

South Korean Shin Ji Yai and Kaori Higo matched par and were another shot back.

Sakura Yokomine, who came from behind to beat South Korean Jeon Mi Jeong in a playoff at last week’s Studio Alice Ladies Open, shot a 73 to share seventh, while U.S. LPGA player Momoko Ueda made a slow start in her first domestic event of the season, carding a 74 to tie for 20th.

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