Late surge lifts LeBlanc to LPGA lead

Late surge lifts LeBlanc to LPGA lead


Canada's Maude-Aimee LeBlanc closed with three straight birdies in a bogey-free seven-under par 64

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Los Angeles (AFP) – Canada's Maude-Aimee LeBlanc closed with three straight birdies in a bogey-free seven-under par 64 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead in the LPGA Seri Pak Championship in Los Angeles.

LeBlanc, seeking a first LPGA title was one stroke in front of American rookie Malia Nam, a former University of Southern California student golfer who made the most of her local knowledge in shooting a 65 on the par-71 Palos Verdes golf club course.

"I felt like I hit the ball really well today, and whenever I missed the green I was able to make up and down," said LeBlanc, who teed off on 10 and had two birdies before the turn.

She heated up coming in, following birdies at the first and third with birdies at the seventh, eighth and ninth to power to the top of the leaderboard.

"Made some really good saves and just kept the momentum going throughout the round," she said. "The putting was good as well. Nam had five birdies and an eagle with one bogey in he six-under effort.

"You know, it's really nice to come back to a course that I'm really familiar with," said Nam, who said she played the course "probably over 100 times" as a collegiate golfer.

"It really helped today just knowing exactly what clubs I'm going to have in and how to prepare for this tournament as well," said Nam, who added that the course was "no easy track.

"I think it really helps if you're hitting the ball well, and that's what I was doing in my first nine," added the American who was six-under through her first seven holes.

"I was just like, oh, my God, the birdies just kept coming," she said, calling her even-par back nine "more melodramatic. "Missed a few more really good short birdie opportunities. Overall (I) was having a pretty fun day."

Japan's Yuka Saso, Sweden's Madelene Sagstrom and Americans Alison Lee and Lauren Hartlage shared third on five-under 66. Defending champion Yin Ruoning of China carded a one-under 70 that left her in a group sharing 28th place.

Yin won on the same course last year when the tournament was called the LA Open. This year it's been renamed in honor of new tournament host, South Korean LPGA Hall of Famer Pak Se-ri.

It's the first stop in the tour's return Stateside after an Asian swing. World number one Lilia Vu, who was hampered by illness in Singapore and withdrew from the Blue Bay LPGA in China due to injury, carded a first-round 73.

Second-ranked Nelly Korda, making her first start since she won the LPGA Drive On Championship in January, opened with a 72.