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'Happy' Arpichaya fires sizzling 61 for LPGA ShopRite Classic lead

Thailand's Arpichaya Yubol has the first-round lead in the LPGA ShopRite Classic in New Jersey (Hunter Martin)
Thailand's Arpichaya Yubol has the first-round lead in the LPGA ShopRite Classic in New Jersey (Hunter Martin)

Arpichaya Yubol, riding high after a fifth-place finish at the US Women's Open, fired a record-equalling 10-under par 61 on Friday to seize the first-round lead in the LPGA ShopRite Classic.

The 22-year-old Thai matched the tournament record at Seaview Golf and Country Club, where she teed off on the 10th hole and birdied four straight from the 14th through the 17th before chipping in for eagle at 18.

"I just try to hit close and then make birdie, and the ball is in the hole," she said of her eagle. "Then I just (said) 'OK, today is looking good.'"

She bagged four more birdies coming in -- at the third, fourth, sixth and seventh -- and had a two-shot lead over South Korean Jenny Shin heading into the weekend of the 54-hole event.

"I feel like I just started to play happy golf, like, every hole," Arpichaya said. "Because I feel my confidence is coming back from last week in the US Women's. It was the greatest week in my life and it made me more confident for this week."

The first top-10 finish of Arpichaya's LPGA career came out of nowhere last week. She had missed six straight cuts heading into her debut appearance in the Open but closed with rounds of 68 and 69 at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania to finish in fifth behind winner Yuka Saso of Japan.

On the Seaview Bay Course in Galloway, New Jersey, she picked up right where she left off.

Her 25-foot birdie putt at the par-three seventh left her within sight of a course-record 60.

Her 10-foot birdie attempt at the ninth, her final hole, didn't drop, but the 95th-ranked Thai still called it the best round of her career.

She had shot a 10-under before on the Thai LPGA Tour, "but it's not in a big tournament like this," she said. "On this day it makes me confident a lot."

That confidence had already started to build last week, when a pre-Open talk with her manager gave her a boost as her string of missed cuts had her fearing she would lose her LPGA card.

"When I think bad, he clear my mind," said Arpichaya, who turned pro at 15 in 2017.

Shin, who won her lone LPGA title to date at the 2016 Texas Shootout, had nine birdies and one bogey in her eight-under round and was one stroke clear of compatriot An Na-rin, who had seven birdies in her 64.

Things got crowded after that, with seven players tied for fourth on 65 and another half dozen in a group on 66.

Defending champion Ashleigh Buhai of South Africa headlined a group of 22 players on 67.

Saso, who made her second LPGA title a second US Open triumph with her victory on Sunday, had three birdies and a bogey in a two-under 69 that left her tied for 51st.

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