Lee secures early lead

Mirim Lee fired a 65 to secure a one-stroke lead in Thursday’s opening round at the Kia Classic.

Lee is 7-under-par after the opening round. She missed the course record at Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club by just one shot.

Former world number one Yani Tseng opened with a 6-under 66 and is alone in second place.

Current world number one Lydia Ko is another stroke back at 5-under-par and is joined in third place by Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb and Xiyu Lin.

Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis are among 10 players tied for seventh place at 4-under 68.

Lee, who won the Meijer LPGA Classic and Reignwood LPGA Classic last year, started with a birdie on the 10th.

She followed three pars in a row with three birdies in a 4-hole span from the 14th.

Around the turn, she birdied the first to grab a share of the lead.

She again parred three consecutive holes, this time from the second.

“My long game didn’t feel good, my swing didn’t feel good, but I made a lot of putts,” Lee said.

“Last week I struggled, I couldn’t make anything. So, I changed my grip and practiced a lot this week.”

Tseng was steady out of the gate thanks to six straight pars from the first. Following that, she caught fire.

The 15-time LPGA Tour winner poured in three birdies in a row starting at the sixth. Tseng jumped to minus-5 with an eagle at the par-5 10th.

Tseng stumbled to a 3-putt bogey at the par-3 14th. She bounced back with a birdie on the 16th. At the 18th, Tseng’s drive stopped in the rough on the side of a bunker.

With her ball about knee high, Tseng knocked her second shot inside five feet and drained the putt for a closing birdie.

“I was kind of embarrassed. I tightened up my shoes and made sure I kept my balance. I felt like I knew I could hit this shot, but I never thought I’d be that close,” Tseng admitted.

“I mean today I putted well. I had so many that lipped out. I stay really patient out there because I know I putt well, so I didn’t change anything.”