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ANA could be major consolation for Munoz

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RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Azahara Munoz won’t get to defend Spain’s title at the UL International Crown later this year, but she put herself in position Thursday to make a run at more than a nice consolation prize.

With a 5-under-par 67, Munoz moved into early contention for a chance to win her first major championship. She moved into a tie for the first-round lead with Ai Miyazato at the ANA Inspiration.

“I've actually been playing really well, and my scores haven't showed it at all,” Munoz said. “I was thinking it was just a matter of time before it was going to start happening, and it did today. Hopefully, it keeps doing that.”

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This marks the last week countries can qualify for the UL International Crown, the LPGA’s biennial international team competition. Spain won the inaugural title two years ago, but the team doesn’t stand much chance of qualifying to return for the event July 22-24. This is the last week for team qualifying, and the Spaniards are 11th in the standings. Only the top eight will make it.

“We won, so I only have the best memories,” Munoz said. “UL is one of my sponsors, so I really wish I could be there and represent them, as well. But it is what it is. Obviously, we haven't been playing as good as we should have. I think that's only going to make us work harder, but it's really going to hurt watching it on TV. Hopefully, we'll be there in Korea [next time].”

Munoz had sole possession of the lead Thursday at Mission Hills before making bogey at the last, but she said a big part of her good play is a change of attitude in how she handles challenges.

“I know I need to keep believing in myself and eventually it's going to happen,” she said.