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Thompson all smiles again

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Lexi Thompson is smiling and having fun again at the ANA Inspiration.

A year after a rules violation cost her four strokes in regulation in an eventual playoff loss, Thompson shot a 4-under 68 on Thursday to finish three strokes behind leader Pernilla Lindberg.

'I don't know if I would say it's a relief,' Thompson said. 'I was just really looking forward to just playing this week. I love coming here.'

Thompson also again overpowered Michelle Wie on a hot afternoon at Mission Hills, four years after routing her in a final-round showdown for her first major title.

Wie fought dizzy spells on the front nine in a 75 that left her in danger of missing the cut.

'I had the mad spins,' Wie said. 'I just got really dizzy. I don't know why or how. I don't know.'

Wearing a black dress in the mid-90s heat, she birdied the second hole, then dropped five strokes in four holes with two double bogeys and a bogey.

'I fouled five balls out there on the front nine,' said Wie, the Singapore winner four weeks ago. 'One that I whiffed in the rough.'

She felt much better on the back nine, but still couldn't keep up with Thompson. The distance disparity was particularly pronounced on the par-4 12th when Thompson cracked a 348-yarder 72 yards past Wie.

Lindberg birdied her final two holes for a bogey-free 65, playing in the last group to finish the round. The 31-year-old Swede is winless on the LPGA Tour.

'I often get the question, favorite tournament, favorite golf course, and I always say this event and this course,' Lindberg said. 'I like this place and I always feel good playing here.'

Beatriz Recari and Ayako Uehara were a stroke back, and Jessica Korda, Ha Na Jang and Stanford sophomore Albane Valenzuela shot 67. In Gee Chun and Cristie Kerr were at 68 with Thompson, Chella Choi, Sung Hyun Park and Brittany Altomare.

Recari had a bogey-free round , saving par on the par-3 17th with a 10-footer. The 30-year-old Spaniard has three LPGA Tour victories.

'I've always felt very comfortable here,' Recari said. 'I felt like if I was going to win a major, it was going to be on this course.'

Uehara birdied her final two holes. The Japanese player credited instructor Ted Oh for her strong play. 'Now I have confidence,' she said.

Korda birdied the 18th after bogeying 16 and 17. She birdied the first four holes and was 6 under after 11.

'A couple of weird shots there, especially on 17,' she said.

The winner last month in Thailand in her return from reconstructive jaw surgery, Korda reached the par-5 ninth with a driver from the right first cut. She hit driver off the deck twice two weeks in the Founders Cup.

'I actually caught way more air than I expected,' Korda said. 'That's kind of what I'm just trying to do is have fun out there, hit shots that normally I would probably not hit in a tournament.'

HOUSTON OPEN: At Humble, Texas, PGA Tour rookie Sam Ryder played just enough to get his name atop the leaderboard in the Houston Open.

Ryder holed an 8-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole to reach 8-under par before it was too dark to continue. The opening round was delayed two hours because of overnight rain that dumped more than 2 inches on the Golf Club of Houston.

But it was partly cloudy, warm and breezy for most of the day, with a forecast for more of the same through the weekend.

Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover and Kevin Tway each shot 7-under 65 in the morning. They had a one-shot lead over Rickie Fowler, Rod Pampling, Ryan Armour and Julian Suri among those who completed their rounds.

Beau Hossler, another PGA Tour rookie, was at 7 under through 16 holes.

Phil Mickelson looked as if he would be among the leaders when he shot 30 on the front nine and was one shot behind. Mickelson, who won the Mexico Championship three weeks ago for his first victory in more than four years, stalled on the back nine, and then wound up in the wrong spot on the par-3 14th.

Facing a bunker shot with the green running away from him, Mickelson left it in the sand and the ball rolled back into his footprint. He did well to get that one on the fringe, and got up and down to make double bogey.

Mickelson wound up with a 68, along with Jordan Spieth, who made three late birdies playing in the morning.

'I didn't make a birdie on the back nine and that's disappointing,' Mickelson said. 'But I'm playing well. I got off to a good start. My goal is not to win on Thursday. My goal is to try to get in contention for the weekend. So I didn't hurt myself there. But I didn't help myself as much as I could have.'

In-Kyung Kim, of South Korea, reacts after missing a birdie putt on the fourth hole during the first round of the LPGA Tour ANA Inspiration golf tournament at Mission Hills Country Club,Thursday, March 29, 2018 in Rancho Mirage, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)