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Munoz (65) has best round since return from surgery

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Azahara Munoz still feels pain in her surgically repaired left hand, but she found some good medicine Friday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Munoz felt good seeing so many of her shots homing in on flagsticks again.

With a 6-under-par 65, Munoz is among three leaders in the clubhouse at the weather-delayed Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. She’s tied with Brittany Lincicome and Anna Nordqvist and is one shot ahead of Ryann O’Toole.

M.J. Hur was at 8 under through 14 holes when darkness fell, halting play. Na Yeon Choi was at 6 under through 14 holes with Gerina Piller 5 under through 14 holes and Mariajo Uribe 5 under through 15 holes.

Two rain delays caused stoppage of play for a total of 4 hours and 13 minutes. Sixty-three players were still on the course when darkness fell. They’ll return at 8:45 a.m. ET Saturday to conclude the first round with the second round scheduled to begin an hour later.

A lot of the game’s big names were off to strong starts.

Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel opened with 67s. Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park opened with a 69. Karrie Webb, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr and Mo Martin also opened with 69s. Defending champion Stacy Lewis was at 4 under through 15 holes when play was halted.

Friday’s 65 was Munoz’s best round since she returned to play after having a benign tumor surgically removed from the palm of her left hand.

“Normally, I'm a really good ball striker, and I hit my irons really close, but I don't remember last time I did that,” Munoz said. “So today, going for pins, and hitting it really close, it felt really good, back to normal.”

Munoz started the year on a hot run, with four starts of T-13 or better, but she has struggled to find that form since the surgery. She had the tumor removed March 16 and went a month without touching a club. She returned to the LPGA just a week after returning to practice, making the cut and tying for 33rd at the Swinging Skirts Classic in late April. She hasn’t finished better than T-30 in her six starts since returning.

“I just wanted to get out here as soon as I could, but I couldn't practice,” Munoz said. “So, it’s been hard. I could play, because you don't hit so many shots out there [during a round], but I couldn't hit balls on the range ... I kind of started losing confidence, and it got to the point that I didn't really know what to do, because I couldn't practice.”

Munoz said she finally felt like she got in a good week of practice last week with the LPGA off. The Spaniard was a big part of the European victories in the last two Solheim Cups. She figures to be an important part of this year’s team again with the matches in Germany in September.

“My hand's still a little sore, but I can practice,” Munoz said. “I just have to be a little smart about it. Finally started hitting the ball much better and that was the difference.”