PHOENIX – Top-ranked Lydia Ko shot a 6-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the lead in the suspended first round of the JTBC Founders Cup.
The 17-year-old Ko rebounded from a three-putt bogey on the seventh hole with a 12-foot birdie putt on the eighth and finished with a par to join Tiffany Joh, Sophia Popov and Kim Kaufman atop the leaderboard at Desert Ridge.
The start was delayed four hours because of rain and wet conditions on the Wildfire layout. Only half of the 132 players finished before play was suspended because of darkness.
Ko has broken par in her last 21 tour rounds and 24 worldwide, a streak that started in the first round of her victory last year in the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.
She nearly won last year at Desert Ridge, squandering a three-stroke lead with 13 holes left and ending up tying for second – a stroke behind Karrie Webb.
The South Korean-born New Zealander has six LPGA Tour titles and 10 worldwide victories in professional events, winning the Women’s Australian Open and the Ladies European Tour’s New Zealand Women’s Open in consecutive weeks this year. She also tied for second in the opener in Florida and was second two weeks ago in Singapore.
Joh birdied six of the first 10 holes and closed with eight pars.
Popov arrived in Phoenix on Tuesday after spending last week in a Naples, Florida, hospital because of an infection and the flu. In her only other tour start as a pro, she missed the cut in Australia in February.
South Korea’s In Gee Chun and Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn shot 67, and the Netherlands’ Dewi Claire Schreefel also was 5 under with eight holes left.
Webb, also the winner of the inaugural tournament in 2011, was 2 under with 12 holes left in her round with 2013 winner Stacy Lewis and 2012 champion Yani Tseng. Lewis also was 2 under, and Tseng 1 under.
Michelle Wie had a late triple bogey in a 73 playing alongside Ko. Getting over strep throat that hit her in the Bahamas and a sinus infection that bothered her in two events in Asia, Wie has broken 70 only once in 15 rounds this season.
Italy’s Giulia Molinaro had a hole-in-one on the 148-yard 17th hole to win a 2016 Kia K900. The Monday qualifier was 1 under with nine holes left.
Canada’s Alena Sharp only played four holes Thursday but was able to card four birdies to sit 4-under for a share of 8th spot.