Carlsbad, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Mirim Lee fired a 7-under 65 in Thursday's opening round to take a 1-stroke lead at the Kia Classic.
Lee, who missed the course record at Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club by one shot, won twice on the LPGA Tour in 2014.
Former world No. 1 Yani Tseng opened with a 6-under 66 and is alone in second place. Current world No. 1 Lydia Ko is one stroke back at minus-5. Ko was joined in third place by Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb and Xiyu Lin.
Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis, the second- and third-ranked players in the world, are among 10 players tied for seventh place at 4-under 68.
Lee, who won the Meijer LPGA Classic and Reignwood LPGA Classic last year, started with a birdie on the 10th. She followed three pars in a row with three birdies in a 4-hole span from the 14th.
Around the turn, Lee birdied the first to grab a share of the lead at minus-5. She again parred three consecutive holes, this time from the second.
Lee birdied the par-5 fifth and the par-5 eighth. With a chance to match the course record, Lee capped her round with a par on the ninth.
"My long game didn't feel good, my swing didn't feel good, but I made a lot of putts," Lee said through her caddie. "Last week I struggled, I couldn't make anything. So, I changed my grip and practiced a lot this week."
Tseng was steady out of the gate thanks to six straight pars from the first. Following that, she caught fire.
The 15-time LPGA Tour winner poured in three birdies in a row starting at the sixth. Tseng jumped to minus-5 with an eagle at the par-5 10th.
Tseng stumbled to a 3-putt bogey at the par-3 14th. She bounced back with a birdie on the 16th. At the 18th, Tseng's drive stopped in the rough on the side of a bunker.
With her ball about knee high, Tseng knocked her second shot inside five feet and drained the putt for a closing birdie.
"I was kind of embarrassed. I tightened up my shoes and made sure I kept my balance. I felt like I knew I could hit this shot, but I never thought I'd be that close," Tseng admitted. "I mean today I putted well. I had so many that lipped out. I stay really patient out there because I know I putt well, so I didn't change anything."
NOTES: Lee owns the first-round lead for just the second time in her LPGA Tour career ... Defending champion Anna Nordqvist opened with an even-par 72 and is tied for 78th ... Ko carded her 25 consecutive under-par round ... Annika Sorenstam holds the tour record of 29, while the PGA Tour record is 26 ... Park could take over the spot in the world rankings with a win and Ko finishing in a 4-way tie for second or worse.