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Kraft Nabisco Championship: New leaders emerging in the afternoon

March 31, 2011 |  5:38 pm

Lincicome_300 For most of the day there were co-leaders at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the LPGA's first major of the season. Germany's Sandra Gal and Japan's Mika Miyazato (note: an earlier version of this post listed Miyazato's first name as Ai), among the morning 's early players, had finished with scores of five under par at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage.

And it looks as if the day may end with co-leaders as well. Just different ones.

Stacy Lewis, a former All-American at the University of Arkansas who has an iron rod in her back because she had a severe case of scoliosis (curvature of the spine), and Brittany Lincicome, who won her only major title here in 2009, posted six-under 66s even though they were hiding in the few patches of shade as temperatures climbed higher than 100 degrees on the course. That puts them a stroke in front of Gal and Miyazato, who both posted 67s.

Lewis, 25, hasn't won yet on the LPGA Tour, but her round Thursday featured seven birdies including three in a row on 13, 14, 15, which seemed almost a fighting response to her single bogey. Lewis made a 6-foot putt to keep that bogey from something worse and she said that was a momentum switch. "I think that helped me really get going," she said.

Lincicome, also 25 and from Seminole, Fla., had a bogey-free round.

There are still some challengers on the course who could join the leaders. Jane Park of Rancho Cucamonga (she also played one year at UCLA), is five under with five holes to play. And rising British star Melissa Reid is two behind the leaders with two holes left.

Michelle Wie, who had arrived at the place where she first played as a 13-year-old in 2003 with high hopes, is two-over through 17 holes and tied for 58th.


Kraft Nabisco Championship leaderboard

Cristie Kerr, Michelle Wie are optimistic at Mission Hills

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Brittany Lincicome tees off at No. 11 on Thursday during the first round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Credit: Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images