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Phatlum's 64 leads Thompson by 1, with big names in the hunt

PORTLAND — The hot putter and hottest round in Thursday's first round of the Safeway Classic belonged to Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand.

The 23-year-old Phatlum, looking for her first official LPGA victory, took a one-stroke lead over Lexi Thompson with her 8-under 64 at Columbia Edgewater Country Club.

"I'm feeling very good with the golf course. I like the course. Very nice," said Phatlum, who ranks 26th on the money list and has two top-three finishes.

Of the 142 players competing in the $1.3 million event, 98 broke par and 17 more matched it.

Phatlum changed putters before the opening round and rang up 10 birdies. She had 22 total putts.

"I was not putting good last week," she said, but on Thursday "I made almost everything."

Thompson already was in the clubhouse with a 65. She had an eagle and six birdies and played the four par-5s in 4-under.

Germany's Sandra Gal and Americans Cristie Kerr and Lizette Salas were tied third with 66s.

Then came 14 players at 67. That group that included world No. 2-ranked Stacy Lewis, former world No. 1 Yani Tseng, 2010 Safeway Classic winner Ai Miyazato, Michelle Wie and Hall of Famers Juli Inkster and Se Ri Pak.

The field has about 90 of the top 100 money-winners in 2013, although world No. 1 Inbee Park withdrew Tuesday because of illness and No. 11 Paula Creamer pulled out before her tee time Thursday, citing personal reasons.

The course played relatively soft after early-morning rain, thunder and lightning delayed the start by an hour and led the Tour to institute lift, clean and place rules on the wet fairways.

"It was especially important to hit the fairways," Lewis said. "You could at least give yourself a good lie."

Thompson, who turned pro when she was 15, hit 15 greens on the 6,454-yard layout.

"I have been working on tightening up my shots, even with my driver," she said. "I think this is the best my game has ever been. I have been nonstop working on my game, trying to improve little things, and I think it's showing."

Thompson, who hails from Coral Springs, Fla., is looking for her second LPGA victory. She won the Navistar LPGA Classic in September 2011.

Her eagle came on the 463-yard 7th hole, after a drive into the right rough.

"I hit like a three-quarter 6-iron and hit pretty far short, and it rolled all the way up to about six feet above the hole," she said.

Gal, 28, former University of Florida player, also has one career LPGA win but wasn't able to make the recently victorious European Solheim Cup team.

"I've been playing really well recently. I just haven't been making a lot of putts," she said.

Lewis, gunning for her fourth LPGA win of the year, said she "hit some shaky shots toward the end," but escaped without a bogey.

"It's about as easy of a 67 as you can get," she said. The greens were "so soft, you are just playing target golf. I love it."

Wie, who has two tour victories but none since 2010, was 5-under through 10 holes, then managed only eight consecutive pars.

"Just didn't make a lot of putts," she said. "The greens were a little bumpy with the greens so soft. Just left myself a couple of tricky ones. I hit them well, I putted well, had good speed. Hopefully tomorrow I can get back on the birdie train."

World No. 3 Suzann Pettersen, Natalie Gulbis and Jiyai Shin were among the 15 players at 68. Gulbis aced the 166-yard 2nd hole wit a 6-iron.

Morgan Pressel, Karrie Webb and 14 others shot 69.

Defending champ Mika Miyazato opened with a 71.

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