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Korda 3 shots back at Ford Championship in bid to win 3 straight starts

Christian Petersen / Getty Images Sport / Getty

GILBERT, Ariz. (AP) — Nelly Korda shot a 6-under 66 in the first round of the Ford Championship on Thursday, leaving her three shots back in a bid to win three straight LPGA Tour starts.

A week after brutal wind outside Los Angeles in the Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship, ideal scoring conditions greeted the players in the inaugural event at Seville Golf and Country Club.

Pajaree Anannarukan took advantage with a bogey-free, 9-under 63 after starting on the back nine at the 6,734-yard course in suburban Phoenix. She had a one-shot lead over Lilia Vu, Gabriela Ruffels, Isa Gabsa and former Arizona State players Azahara Munoz and Carlota Ciganda.

The top-ranked Korda opened with four birdies in five holes and closed with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 18th as she tries to become the first LPGA Tour player to win three straight starts since Ariya Jutanugarn in 2016.

Korda won the Drive On Championship in her hometown of Bradenton, Florida, before sitting out all of the LPGA Tour’s Asian swing. She showed no rust after the long break, winning last week to move back atop the world ranking.

Anannarukan has won twice on the LPGA Tour, including last year's Bank of Hope Match Play. The 24-year-old from Thailand closed with five straight birdies to shoot 6-under 30 on Seville's front nine.

Vu fell out of the top spot in the world when Korda won in a playoff last week at Palos Verdes Golf Club. The two-time major champion sandwiched four birdies around a bogey on the par-3 eighth and had four birdies on the back nine.

Ciganda rolled in eight birdies in a bogey-free round that started on the back nine. Munoz had a wild round that included eight birdies, an eagle and two bogeys in her bid to win for the first time since the 2012 Sybase Match Play Championship.

Ruffels had seven birdies and an eagle with a bogey, a week after missing a birdie putt that would have put her in a playoff with Korda and Ryann O'Toole. Gabsa had three birdies on the front nine, then reeled off four straight to shoot 5-under 31 on the back to finish off her bogey-free round.

Celine Boutier and Hyo Joo Kim shot 65.


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