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Thursday, March 24, 2011
Amanda Blumenherst holds early lead

Associated Press

INDUSTRY, Calif. -- Amanda Blumenherst birdied the final four holes for a 7-under 66 and a one-stroke lead over Germany's Sanda Gal on Thursday in the Kia Classic.

Blumenherst, the former Duke star seeking her first LPGA Tour victory, had nine birdies and two bogeys in her opening round on the Industry Hills Golf Club course at Pacific Palms.

The American took advantage of tranquil morning conditions on the rain-softened course.

"The fairways are extremely soft right now. So are the greens," Blumenherst said. "It's playing a lot longer than it says on the card, which actually suits me because I'm one of the longer ball-strikers."

Michelle Wie birdied the par-5 18th for a 68. The Kia endorser, returning to the tour after finishing finals at Stanford, played in chilly conditions late in the afternoon.

"It was very cold out there, especially during the end," Wie said. "It's a tough course. You've got to be patient out there, and hopefully tomorrow do the same thing and hopefully have a couple more birdies."

Blumenherst played the back nine in 5-under 30.

"I'm playing so well, just the scores have not been coming together," she said. "The putts haven't been falling. And I just haven't been playing as smart as I should. Just everything came together today."

Gal also had four consecutive birdies on her back nine. She finished with seven birdies and a bogey.

"I think it's a ball-striker's course," Gal said. "You've got to hit the fairway and be precise with your yardages. I think that's my game."

Wie relied on power and accuracy on the soggy course.

"I think that [length] is an advantage, but obviously it's a very tight golf course, so you have to be on the fairway," Wie said. "I think that you have to have a combination of both."

Second-ranked Jiyai Shin was four strokes back at 70 along with Reilley Rankin, Mika Miyazato, I.K. Kim, Catriona Matthew and Amy Hung.

Top-ranked Yani Tseng, the winner of the season-opening LPGA Thailand and three other worldwide events this year, opened with a 71. Karrie Webb, coming off her second straight victory Sunday in Phoenix, shot a 72.

The tournament is the tour's first in the Los Angeles area in six years. Last year at La Costa in Carlsbad, Hee Kyung Seo won her first LPGA Tour title, beating Inbee Park by six strokes. Seo shot a 77 on Thursday.

Dori Carter was unable to finish the final hole because of darkness.