Martin, Kerr and Chun lead Kia Classic

Mo Martin, Cristie Kerr and In Gee Chun all carded six-under-par-66’s in the opening round of the Kia Classic on Thursday to lead the event by two strokes from the chasing field.

Martin returned a clean scorecard with six birdies and no bogeys on a still Southern California Thursday morning.

The course received substantial rain in recent days and Martin feels that moisture made the Aviara Golf Club course a very fair test.

“Coming out here on Monday, it was like the grass is healthy and lush, which makes the fairways and the greens super nice,” said Martin.

“It also lets the rough be a little bit thicker than we've seen it before. I like it. I love it when it's playing tough.”

Kerr, who won the Kia Classic in 2015 and is out to become the tournament’s first multiple winner, got off to a frustrating start when her two-footer for par at the second hole lipped-out.

However, a birdie at the ensuing third opened the floodgates, as she converted six more birdies and left the course with a spring in her step.

“I needed to simplify my swing feel and not overcomplicate things,” Kerr said.

“So kind of went back to some simple feels and played awesome today.”

Chun was on fire on the home stretch, reeling off birdies at holes 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17 to pull into a tie for the lead. She played the 18th poorly but managed to grind out an untidy par to make it a three-way traffic jam at the top of the leader board.

“I like (it) here,” Chun smiled afterwards.

“Course is really pretty and challenging, so I'm very happy to be back here.”

Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn is part of a six-lady group at four-under-par.

World number one Lydia Ko is struggling. She is in a tie for 79th at two-over.