Birdie blitz puts Amanda clear

A late birdie blitz has enabled Amanda Blumenherst to fire a 66 and claim a one-stroke lead at the LPGA’s Kia Classic.

A closing birdie blitz has enabled Amanda Blumenherst to fire a 7-under 66 and claim a one-stroke lead after Thursday’s first round of the LPGA’s Kia Classic.

The American young gun, an outstanding amateur now seeking her first LPGA Tour victory, had two bogeys and nine birdies, four consecutively on the closing holes, as she edged clear of Germany’s Sandra Gal at the Industry Hills Golf Club course at Pacific Palms in California

Blumenherst, an early starter, enjoyed tranquil morning conditions on the rain-softened course – and took full advantage of them.

”The fairways are extremely soft right now. So are the greens,” a clearly upbeat Blumenherst said afterwards.

”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, who is in third place, two shots off the pace, heading into the second round, birdied the par-5 18th for a 68in the tougher, colder conditions of the late 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 (length and accuracy).”

Korea’s World No 2 Jiyai Shin is four strokes back after posting a 2-under 70 along with fellow American Reilley Rankin, Japan’s Mika Miyazato, Korea’s I.K. Kim and Amy Hung and Scotland’s Catriona Matthew.

Top-ranked Yani Tseng, the winner of the season-opening LPGA Thailand and three other worldwide events this year, opened with a 71 while Karrie Webb, coming off her second straight victory on Sunday 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, who shot a 77 on Thursday, won her first LPGA Tour title in this event, beating Inbee Park by six strokes.