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Lydia Ko of New Zealand walks on the 18th hole during the first round of the Gainnbridge LPGA at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club on February 25, 2021 in Orlando, Fla.

Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

Lydia Ko of New Zealand birdied three of the last five holes Thursday and leads the Gainbridge LPGA by two strokes after one round in Orlando.

Looking confident on her home course at the Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, Ko opened with an eagle at the par-4 first hole and closed with a long birdie putt at the par-4 18th for a 7-under 65. A bogey at the par-4 seventh was her round’s only blemish.

“Obviously went off to a perfect start, you know, holing out for my second shot on the first hole,” Ko said. “I think I hit the ball really well today. To be on the fairways is key, because (they) have just done a great job of growing the rough and making it tough.”

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It has been nearly three years since the 23-year-old Ko won her 15th and most recent LPGA Tour title at the LPGA Mediheal Championship in April 2018.

“It’s a bit of an advantage,” Ko said of playing on her home track. “But at the same time, I feel like you still need to hit good shots and be committed out there. I feel like I was able to do that pretty well.”

Nelly Korda and Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen are two strokes back after carding rounds of 5-under 67. Each had six birdies and one bogey on the day.

Seven golfers are tied at 4 under, including Jennifer Kupcho, Ryann O’Toole, Megan Khang, Mexico’s Gaby Lopez, China’s Xiyu Lin, Denmark’s Nicole Broch Larsen and Jin Young Ko of South Korea.

World Golf Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, competing in her first LPGA Tour event in 13 years, posted a triple bogey at the par-4 fifth hole and finished with a round of 75. The eight-time LPGA Tour Player of the Year’s last win came at the 2008 Michelob Ultra Open at Kinsgmill.

“If I look at it objectively, it’s one hole that really messed it up. I was trying to get back at it, but I can’t remember the last time I had a triple or hit it out of bounds. So that certainly put a damper in the round,” said Sorenstam, 50, who also calls Lake Nona home.

“Overall, I really had a good time. I thought the course was playing beautiful out there.”

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Fellow Swede and defending champion Madelene Sagstrom shot a 77 that included double bogeys at Nos. 15 and 18.

“Just playing with Annika, it’s amazing,” Sagstrom said of her first-round partner and countrywoman. “Her wedge game is so stupidly good still. I’m going to get some advice and then go from there.”

Jessica Korda, who opened the 2021 tour calendar with a win last month at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, is tied for 29th at 1 under.

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