Pajaree jumps in front at Ford Championship

Pajaree jumps in front at Ford Championship

Thai golfer Pajaree Anannarukarn, 24, leads at Ford Championship. (File photo)
Thai golfer Pajaree Anannarukarn, 24, leads at Ford Championship. (File photo)

GILBERT - A string of five consecutive birdies led Thailand's Pajaree Anannarukarn to the first-round lead at the inaugural Ford Championship on Thursday in Gilbert, Arizona, the United States.

Anannarukarn shot a 9-under-par 63 at Seville Golf and Country Club, leaving her with a one-stroke advantage.

American Lilia Vu, Germany's Isi Gabsa, Australian Gabriela Ruffels and Spaniards Azahara Munoz and Carlota Ciganda share second place at 8 under. South Korea's Kyo Joo Kim and France's Celine Boutier are tied for seventh at 7 under.

Eleven players, including world No. 1 Nelly Korda, are at 6 under, tied for ninth.

Anannarukarn began on the back nine and was enjoying an impressive round through 13 holes: four birdies and nine pars. Then she closed with birdies at No. 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 to conclude her day.

"It was a great day out there," she said. "I actually was in the zone. I didn't realize that I holed my fifth birdie in a row on the ninth green, but it was a great day. ...

"I played some really good shots today. Hit a lot of good driver off the tee and gave me a lot of benefit just going into the green with short irons. I was able to just hit some good long irons in as well, so that helped."

Ciganda had a similar hot streak in her bogey-free round. After starting on the back nine, she birdied five of the first six holes on the front nine.

"Eight birdies, no bogeys. It's always a great round," she said.

Vu closed the back nine with a run of three consecutive birdies, her lone bogey of the day at par-3 eighth hole, then another birdie.

"I think I did pretty well," said Vu, the world's second-ranked player. "I've been kind of recovering from a back injury, and the only goal today was to hit the ball solid. It's been kind of difficult the past couple weeks just playing through pain and trying to make contact with the golf ball.

"But today that was my only focus, and turned out really great."

Boutier, ranked third in the world, carded seven birdies without a bogey.

She said of the weather, "It was pretty calm today. Definitely felt like the scores were going to be low, so just tried to take advantage of the chances that I got. Especially the par-5s are mostly reachable, so I feel like it was definitely a big advantage to have a very calm day today.

"I managed to get a lot of birdies, so that was pretty fun."

Korda began with three birdies in a row, and she finished with seven birdies plus a bogey at the par-4 11th hole.

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