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Ayako Uehara starts strong at ANA Inspiration

She shoots 6-under 66 and finishes with eight birdies in first round

Kyodo

Ayako Uehara shot a 6-under-par 66 Thursday to claim a share of second place after the first round of the ANA Inspiration, the first of the year’s five women’s majors.

While Pernilla Lindberg of Sweden stands alone atop the leaderboard after her bogey-free 65 at the Mission Hills Country Club, Uehara and Beatriz Recari of Spain are one shot back, with all three players chasing their first major title.

Uehara, who had a chance to win the Evian Championship last September before dropping to a 10th-place finish, bogeyed her opening hole, the 10th, but recovered with back-to-back birdies on 11 and 12. She dropped another shot on the 16th, but played bogey-free golf over her final 11 holes, picking up six shots along the way.

“I got off to a good start,” said Uehara, who finished with eight birdies. “I did make mistakes but I recovered quickly which was good. It’s a tough course so I can’t let my guard down. Every shot is going to count.”

In her sixth ANA Inspiration appearance, Uehara teed off in the early morning and became only the second Japanese since Akiko Fukushima in 2002 to shoot a 66 at the tournament. Fukushima finished fifth that year.

Nineteen-year-old Nasa Hataoka, who is playing the tournament for the first time, is five shots off the pace and tied for 20th. Ai Suzuki, money leader on the Japan LPGA tour last season, is 56th and Harukyo Nomura is 94th.

The women’s ANA Inspiration and the men’s Masters are the only two majors played on the same course each year.

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