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Park, Ko off to hot start

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PHOENIX – The Rolex world No. 1 battled the young phenom many believe is the future of the women’s game Thursday in the first round of the JTBC Founders Cup.

Inbee Park and Lydia Ko took turns knocking down flagsticks in a spirited start to the LPGA’s domestic opener at J.W. Marriott’s Wildfire Golf Club.

Park was chasing Ko most of the day until closing with three consecutive birdies to shoot 6-under-par 66 and set herself up for a run at back-to-back victories.

Park, 25, won the Mission Hills World Ladies Championship in China in her last start two weeks ago on the Ladies European Tour. She is riding her 49th consecutive week at No. 1 in the world.

Ko, 16, bogeyed the last after hitting her tee shot into a hazard and taking an unplayable lie but still posted a 67.

“I don’t treat her like she’s 16, because she obviously doesn’t play or act like she’s 16,’ Park said. “She’s mature as a person and obviously mature on the golf course as a player.”

Ko, looking to win her third LPGA title before turning 17 next month, said she ran out of fuel at the end of her round.

“I forgot to bring my food and my protein bars,” Ko said.