Carlsbad, California: World No. 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan, a winner in two of four starts this year, fired a five-under par 67 on Thursday to grab a share of the first-round lead at the LPGA Kia Classic.
Tseng, a favorite in next week's first major of the season at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, put herself in contention for a 15th career title this week after matching South Korean Ji Young Oh atop the leaderboard.
"The course is pretty good and I was hitting the ball pretty well," Tseng said. "I just try to focus on every shot in every tournament and give 100 percent effort. I know if I do a good job the effort will come through."
Tseng opened with three birdies in a row, answered a bogey at the par-3 eighth with a birdie at the par-4 ninth, then birdied both back-nine par-5s, the 12th and 17th holes, to stake her claim on the top spot.
Tseng won 12 titles last year in a breakout season, seven of them in LPGA events and two at majors. She was second last year at the Kraft Nabisco at Rancho Mirage to American Stacy Lewis.
Intensity and focus were trademarks for Tseng last season, but this year she has worked on enjoying her efforts more. She has already defended a title in Thailand and captured the LPGA Founders Cup, memories that brought a smile.
"This year my goal is to smile more on the golf course and to enjoy it," Tseng said.
Oh birdied two of the first three holes but like Tseng stumbled with her lone bogey at the eighth. She birdied the 12th and par-3 14th and closed with back-to-back birdies to finish off her 67.
"Everything was good for me. I just kept playing a really long time," Oh said. "I'm really calm. My shot is really good so I had a good score. I had six birdies but they were all short putts."
Sharing third on 68 were Norway's Suzann Pettersen, South Korean Jiyai Shin, Sweden's Caroline Hedwall and Americans Brittany Lincicome and Jennifer Johnson with Canada's Stephanie Sherlock and South Koreans Sun Young Yoo and Amy Yang on 69.
US teen star Lexi Thompson opened on 74 while Michelle Wie, the former US teen star who is now a Stanford University graduate, struggled to a 76.
"I'm just going to keep working on my speed and staying comfortable," Wie said. "I've got to bring my A-game and make more putts. My stroke feels good. I've just got to get comfortable. It's a work in progress."