MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Azahara Munoz shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead over Katherine Hull and Jee Young Lee in the Bell Micro LPGA Classic, the LPGA Tour’s first event since Erica Blasberg was found dead.
Munoz, the former Spanish amateur star who won the 2008 NCAA individual title to lead Arizona State to the team championship, had a bogey-free round on The Crossings course at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s Magnolia Grove complex.
“This morning I couldn’t get up,” said Munoz, who had a 6:50 a.m. tee time off the 10th tee. “But once I’m up and I get going, it’s fine.”
Blasberg died Sunday in suburban Las Vegas and her agent said she had been all set to attempt to qualify for the field at Magnolia Grove. Police have not said if they suspect foul play. The coroner said a ruling on a cause of death was pending blood and tissue tests that could take four to six weeks to complete.
Winless in six LPGA Tour seasons, Blasberg was 25.
Cristie Kerr, Meena Lee, Janice Moodie and Hye Jung Choi shot 67s, and Suzann Pettersen, Eunjung Yi, Sun Young Yoo and Amanda Blumenherst opened with 68s.
Jiyai Shin, No. 1 in the world ranking following Lorena Ochoa’s retirement two weeks ago after the Tres Marias Championship in Mexico, had a 70.
Japanese star Ai Miyazato, the Tres Marias winner for her third victory in the first five events this season, also opened with a 70. Michelle Wie shot a 72.
The tournament wasn’t played in 2009 because of course renovation work. In September 2008 at Magnolia Grove, Angela Stanford beat Shanshan Feng by a stroke.
Stanford shot a 70 on Thursday.
Munoz hit every fairway and missed only one green in regulation – on No. 11 when she holed out of a greenside bunker for her first birdie of the round.
“I was playing really well,” said Munoz, making her second LPGA Tour start of the year and fifth overall. “Actually, a lot of putts didn’t go in, but every putt I hit had a chance.”
The 2009 Women’s British Amateur champion tied for 31st at Tres Marias, opening with a 65, then adding rounds of 76, 79 and 69.
“The first round (at Tres Marias), I just went out there and played normal and I played really well, like today,” she said. “Then the second round, I started thinking of my swing. That was a big mistake, because that course is very technical. …
“Obviously, I was disappointed after a great first round, but I think I learned a lot. I have to stay in the present, one shot at a time.”
Hull, from Australia, had seven birdies and a bogey.
“I made a really stupid bogey on 11 (her second hole), so it kind of ticked me off,” Hull said. “After that, I was like, ‘Right, game on. It got me fired up.'”
Kerr was pleased with her 68.
“Any time you’re shooting in the 60s and lower you’re doing a lot of stuff right,” Kerr said. “This is only the first day of the tournament.”