Thailand's Patty Tavatanakit cruises to first-round ANA Inspiration lead

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Thailand's Patty Tavatanakit fired a stress-free six-under par 66 to take the first round lead Thursday in the year's first golf major, the LPGA ANA Inspiration.

Patty, who played college golf at the University of California at Los Angeles, didn't let any major championship nerves get the better of her, grabbing six birdies without a bogey for a one-shot lead over Chinese veteran Feng Shanshan and Ireland's Leona Maguire.

"It was a pretty calm and relaxing day today," said the 21-year-old, who is in her second year as an LPGA member after a rookie season disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

"I just stuck to my game plan and didn't get too greedy out there. I know it's a major, it's tough, the course is really tough.

"I was just being really patient and I was waiting for putts to drop, and they did on the back nine."

After two front nine birdies, Patty rolled in four coming home. That included three in a row at 13, 14 and 15 and a final flourish at the five 18th.

"First off, you have to hit a good drive there, which I did," she said of the 18th, playing as a true island green this week without spectator grandstands.

"I picked a really good line. And I had a 6-iron in, so it's pretty much a long par-four, 178 to the flag. I just wanted to hit the green ... and I was able to stop it just pin high."

Patty topped a crowded leaderboard that saw a dozen players within three shots of the lead -- a group that included world number one Ko Jin-young of South Korea, Thai sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn and two-time major champion Anna Nordqvist of Sweden.

Feng, a 10-time LPGA winner, looked anything but rusty in her first tour event since the Tour Championship in November 2019.

She had five birdies in her five-under effort, topping the leaderboard until Patty passed her by.

"I was kind of nervous last night," Feng said, "but I said to myself, 'Hey, it's OK. Think about you're just an old rookie. Everything is new for you here and just have no expectation. Try your hardest, 100% on every shot, and enjoy the process.

"That was what I did, actually. I did have some luck on the course today. I mean, on that 17th I didn't really have a very good chip but it actually went in, hit the pin," said Feng, whose chip at the par-three -- her eighth hole -- struck the flagstick and dropped.

"So it's been very nice on me for my first round coming back."

Nordqvist, Ariya, Moriya and American Meghan Khang shared fourth on four-under par 68 while top-ranked Ko headlined a group of eight players on 69.

Ko is playing the tournament for the first time since she won it in 2019.

She didn't return for the rescheduled 2020 edition last September in which South Korean Lee Mi-rim edged American Nelly Korda in a playoff.

- Wie West on leaderboard -

Lee was also in the bunch on 69 after a round featuring four birdies and a bogey.

South Korean star Park In-bee headed another big group on 70 that also included New Zealand's Lydia Ko, Germany's Sophia Popov and Americans Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie West.

Wie West, playing her second event after a 21-month break, said her round reminded her of her first appearance in the event as a 13-year-old in 2003.

"I have to say today was a bit like when I was 13," she said. "I kind of hit it all over the place and grinded a bit out there. But that feels good. I think that's kind of how I play."

Now married and the mother of a daughter born last June, Wie West said her golf might be similar but her outlook is vastly changed.

"Having a baby definitely puts a different perspective on everything," she said. "I'm more excited to go home and see her than I was about my round, to be honest."


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