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Birdie binge puts Lexi on top

WASHINGTON (AFP) — American Lexi Thompson fired a six-under-par 65 Thursday to grab a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the LPGA Kingsmill Championship at Williamsburg, Virginia.

The 22-year-old US star made a run of five birdies in a row on her second nine of the day to stand one stroke ahead of three compatriots – Gerina Piller, Brittany Lincicome and Angel Yin.

“The second nine was pretty crazy,’’ said Thompson, who arrived on the first tee for Wednesday’s pro-am by parachuting out of an airplane. ‘’I hit some great shots and rolled a few good putts, so (it) definitely helps out my confidence.’’

South Korean-born New Zealander Lydia Ko, trying to hang onto the world number one ranking, shared fifth on 67 with Australia’s Sarah Jane Smith and Italy’s Giulia Molinaro.

Thompson, who started on the back nine, birdied the par-4 11th and made her lone bogey of the round at the par-3 17th.

She answered with a birdie on the first hole, her second nine of the round, then ran off her birdie binge starting at the par-5 third and ending at the par-5 seventh.

Thompson hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation. She only missed hitting the green on No. 12.

Thompson is playing in her third tournament since losing a playoff in the ANA Inspiration for being penalized four strokes for a rules violation spotted by a person watching the tournament on television.

Ko posted five birdies and one bogey in the opening round.

‘’Obviously, that’s a really good start to the week,’’ Ko said. ‘’I am just going to try and give myself as many opportunities and I can. I don’t think I was hitting the ball fantastic, so there is a little bit of improvement to do there.’’