Srenstam made four straight birdies after the turn at the Tokyo Yomiuri Country Club. But a bogey on the par-4 seventh helped Japan's Junko Yasui finish tied with Srenstam.
Yasui had an eagle on the par-5 11th and then birdied the final two holes. Michiko Hattori, who held the lead at one point, is in second place three strokes back along with Kasumi Fujii and Sakura Yokomine.
'There was rain on the front nine and wind on the back,' said Srenstam. 'But when I make birdies they seem to come in bunches, so I was very pleased with the way I played -- especially after the turn.'
Srenstam is playing in her last tournament before taking on the men on the PGA Tour at the Bank of America Colonial in two weeks. She said Thursday she wasn't thinking about it.
'I just tried to play my own game,' said Srenstam, whose average driving distance is listed at 275 yards. 'It had nothing to do with the Colonial, but some of my drives were the best they've been in months and I'm pleased about that.'
Srenstam, who won 13 tournaments last year, will become the first woman to play on the PGA TOUR since Babe Zaharias at the 1945 Los Angeles Open.
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