Lewis shoots 66 to take lead in China _lowres

Stacy Lewis watches her tee shot on the first hole during the third round of the LPGA Classic golf tournament at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Capitol Hill in Prattville, Ala., Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/ (AP Photo/ Hal Yeager)

BEIJING — Top-ranked Stacy Lewis birdied five of her final seven holes Thursday for a 7-under 66 and the first-round lead in the Reignwood LPGA Classic.

“You learn you just got to stay patient,” Lewis said. “You’re not going to go shoot a 66 or 65 every single day. Yeah, I want to be in the lead. That’s where I want to be. I want to be in the lead coming up 18 on Sunday as well. It’s a good start, but we have a long ways to go.”

Lewis leads the tour with three victories and earnings of $2,214,143. Last year, she finished a stroke behind Shanshan Feng after the Chinese player eagled the par-5 18th.

Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall was second after a 67.

“I’m really happy with my game today,” Hedwall said. “I started off with two birdies and felt like I was on a roll there. I had quite a few birdie opportunities on the back nine and kept playing well. It was nice to finish off with a birdie as well. Just really happy. I just really like the golf course here. The greens are very nice. My key part of the game is tee to green, and suits me really well. The course has been in really nice shape.”

South Koreans Sun Young Yoo and Jenny Shin were tied for third at 68.

Lewis played alongside No. 2 Inbee Park and No. 4 Suzann Pettersen. Park shot 69, and Pettersen 74.

“The grouping today was fun.” Lewis said. “I always like playing with Inbee and Suzann. If you play with the best players in the world, that makes you better. I don’t know if it made me elevate my game and play a little bit a better, but we had great crowds out there.”

European PGA

McIlroy 9 behind leader in Dunhill: In St. Andrews, Scotland, Rory McIlroy found himself nine shots off the lead after a 1-over-par 73 in the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Thursday.

Four days after celebrating a third straight European Ryder Cup victory, McIlroy could manage just one birdie against two bogeys at Carnoustie, one of the three courses.

“A 73 isn’t disastrous,” McIlroy said.

Oliver Wilson of England, ranked 791 places below the top-ranked McIlroy, equaled the Carnoustie course record with an 8-under 64. It’s the second straight year he’s shot an opening 64 to lead the Dunhill Links. Last year, he finished tied for 59th.

Wilson was in the Ryder Cup in 2008, the last time Europe lost to the U.S, but since 2011 has been competing on the secondary Challenge Tour. He received an invite for this week and sank nine birdie putts, finishing birdie-birdie-birdie-bogey-birdie.

Raphael Jacquelin of France, also at Carnoustie, was one shot behind in second after a 65 which included an eagle on the par-5 14th, his fifth hole.

The Irish pair of Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry shared third with 66s. Harrington, at Carnoustie where he captured the 2007 British Open, bogeyed his closing two holes.

The 55th-ranked Lowry, desperate to earn a maiden Masters invitation by being inside the top-50 at year’s end, birdied six of his opening 10 holes.

McIlroy sent his opening tee shot at Carnoustie way left after hitting the ground about four inches (10 centimeters) behind the ball, but then managed to save par on the course where he won the low amateur medal in the 2007 Open.

won by Harrington.

“I just felt a little flat coming here after the crowds and everything that we were playing in front of last week,” he said.

“I’ve got Kingsbarns tomorrow, so I will try and post a better number and try and hang in there, and then go to St. Andrews over the weekend, a golf course I’ve played well on before.”

Of the three other Ryder Cup winners in the field, Stephen Gallacher fared best with two eagles in a 68, followed by Victor Dubuisson (71), and Martin Kaymer (74). Their captain, Paul McGinley, was 2 over after four holes before ending with a par 72.