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Kung Celebrates Birthday in Style

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Candie Kung may have given herself the best birthday gift anyone could ask for. Kung celebrated her 21st birthday Thursday as leader of the first round of the Weetabix Womens British Open.
 
Kung is a non-exempt rookie on the LPGA Tour. The Rowland Heights, Calif., resident is the leader of the last major of the season after birdieing four of the last five holes in Round 1.
 
And this is only the second time she has played links golf.
 
Its evident that her game is coming together. Kung, born in Taiwan, finished seventh last week and ninth two weeks ago.
 
I was hitting the ball well the last couple of weeks, and coming into this week, just pretty much tried to do the same thing as I did the last couple of weeks, Kung said after her spectacular opening round of 7-under-par 65. Today my putts were going in and that was about it. Putts were going in - (it) really makes a difference.
 
Some might argue that players, like Kung, with morning tee times enjoyed better conditions, but the wind remained virtually breathless all afternoon and scoring conditions remained perfect throughout the day. With this in mind, it is impressive that Kung, who less than a year ago was fighting her way through Q-school, was able to best the field by a stroke.
 
There are some pretty big names chasing Kung. Two-time former Womens British Open champion Karrie Webb went on a birdie spree, recording four birdies on the last six holes to end the day in sole possession of second place at 6-under 66.
 
Obviously, Im very pleased to shoot 6-under today, Webb said.
 
On this course, even as easy as the conditions were today, I don't think you ever expect to go out there and shoot 6-under, so I feel really good about that.'
 
'Probably the good thing about the way I hit the ball today is that my misses were always in the right place, I guess. I didn't miss - I only missed one fairway really badly where I had to pitch out. With the greens, I never really short-sided myself, so I had relatively easy, straight-forward chips,' Webb continued.
 
I mean, if you look at my stats, probably the only thing that was really impressive today was my putting. But when your misses are not on the wrong side of the green, it's a lot easier to get up-and-down and make par.
 
Webb might be able to relate to Kungs position. The young Aussie, 19 years old at the time, was in her rookie year on the Women Professional Golfers European Tour (WPGET) when she won her first of two British championships.
 
Germanys Elisabeth Esterl, donning a bright pink top and multi-colored pants, leads the European contigency competing in the final major of the year. Esterl enjoyed second place for much of the day after recording an opening-round score of 5-under 67. A charge by the afternoon groups left Esterl tied for third with Se Ri Pak and Rachel Teske.
 
Esterl, who has never won on the European Tour, finished in 10th place at the Norwegian Masters last week.
 
I played pretty well in the beginning of the season, the colorful Esterl said. Now, Ive had a bit of a slow spell. I wasnt actually playing badly, I just didnt get it together. It seems like Ive got it together again. Ive got my putter going again, and that makes all the difference.
 
Esterl could prove hard to miss Friday. She has assured that Thursday's was not her loudest of outfits.
 
You watch out! I will find something really special tomorrow,' she said. 'I assure you you wont see me in black and white.
 
Mi Hyun Kim, winner of last weeks LPGA Tour event, is three strokes off the lead and tied with five others including local favorite Mhairi (pronounced Var-ee) McKay.
 
Local odds makers gave Annika Sorenstam, who finished the day at 1-over 73, a 6-1 chance of winning this week.
 
Laura Davies, fresh off her 64th career victory at last week's WPGET event, finished at 2-over 74. An eagle at the par-5 seventh was not enough of a boost for what lay ahead; Davies closed her day with a revolting nine on the par-5 17th to drop from a tie for 21st to a tie for 89th.
 
The oddsmakers listed her as a 33-1 shot, along with up-and-comer Laura Diaz. Diaz, who received rookie of the year honors in 1998 while playing on the WPGET, fared far better than Davies, recording a 3-under 69.
 
Scotland has received an unusual amount of rain this year, resulting in a very lush 6,407 yards at Turnberry's Ailsa course. All this growth has made the rough much more difficult to get out of - something Davies can attest to after finding herself in it quite a few times Thursday.
 
Full-field scores from the Weetabix Women's British Open