ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Leta Lindley birdied the last two holes for a 5-under-par 67 Thursday and a one-stroke lead over Laura Davies and four others after the opening round of the Rochester International.
"I putted well and kept the ball in play and hit a lot of greens - I did a lot of good things," said the 29-year-old Lindley, who has earned $1.1 million since joining the LPGA Tour in 1995 but has yet to win.
"It's hard to get too excited," she added. "There's still three rounds to go."
Still, her strong finish at the tree-lined Locust Hill course brought a rare smile. Ending on the front nine, she made a 5-foot putt on No. 8 and, went straight at the hole for another birdie from 20 feet on her final green.
"It's just nice ... finishing my day off on a good note," she said.
Davies, the big hitter from England who is suffering through the worst slump of her 14-year career, was in a group at 68 with Nancy Scranton, Emilee Klein, Brandie Burton and Jean Bartholomew.
"I was just desperate to shoot a good round," Davies said. "I'll probably miss the cut tomorrow. It doesn't matter - the facts are I've had a good day."
Defending champion Meg Mallon, who also won her third major in 2000, had a 69 with a birdie-birdie finish. Her score was matched by Laura Diaz, a native of Scotia, N.Y., who is still winless in her third year on tour.
Golf's big guns, led by Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak, all skipped the 25-year-old, $1 million tournament, which is sponsored by grocery store chain Wegmans.
It leaves just one top-10 money-winner in the field - Dottie Pepper, who shot a 72 - and only two tournament winners this year - Wendy Doolan of Australia and Rosie Jones. Jones and Juli Inkster are the only Americans to win on tour this year.
Lindley, who now lives in Florida, grew up in Phoenix and played at the University of Arizona. One of her college teammates was Sorenstam, who blamed a grueling schedule in withdrawing from the tournament here after last weekend's U.S. Women's Open.
"This is still a strong field - I think I would take any win any way I can get it," Lindley said.
Her career best was a second at the McDonald's LPGA Championship in 1997 when she lost in a playoff to Chris Johnson. She is 43rd on this year's money list with $110,556, her best outing a sixth-place tie in January.
Lindley had six birdies, highlighted by a 15-foot putt on No. 12. Her only bogey came when she drove her into trees on No. 6 and missed a par putt from 6 feet.
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