DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Lotta Wahlin made seven birdies for a 6-under 66 Wednesday to take a one-shot lead over Becky Brewerton after the first round of the Dubai Ladies Masters.
The 28-year-old Wahlin, whose career was disrupted in 2009 when she was diagnosed with skin cancer, sank a 26-foot birdie putt on the 18th to seize the sole lead.
The Swede is two shots clear of a four-way tie for second and four shots ahead of Lexi Thompson (70), the 16-year-old American who is the youngster winner ever on the LPGA Tour. Michelle Wie, looking for her first win of the year, was seven shots back after shooting a 73.
"I finally had a good round, finally was able to make all the putts," Wahlin said. "I didn't really make any mistakes and I was just playing very solid and made all my putts pretty much."
Wahlin was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2009 while in Dubai and only played a few events on the European Ladies Tour last year and several on the Swedish tour.
The two-time European Ladies Tour winner has fully recovered from the cancer but still wears sun screen, sometimes dons protective clothing that covers her arms and has avoided tournaments in sunnier locales such as Australia and Portugal. While Dubai normally can reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in the summer, temperatures in December are much cooler.
"I just have to be careful. I mean I have that kind of skin which is quite sensitive to the sun," Wahlin said. "I thought is it really worth it to be out on the golf course in the sunny countries or is it better that I just quit playing golf and do something else. But I still have to live my life and golf is my life, or a big part of my life."
Wahlin has struggled since returning to the tour full time this year, failing to earn a top 10 finish this season. She finished 52nd at last week's Indian Open but said her cancer has given her a fresh perspective on the sport.
"Golf is not so important anymore," Wahlin said. "If I have a bad round, I'm still disappointed. But it's not the end of the world like it used to be. So that is a good thing."
Brewerton carded six birdies and a bogey. It was a marked improvement from the Indian Open, where the Welsh golfer finished 74th.
"It was just completely different. It's really hard to say sometimes what makes it change. For some reason, I played well," Brewerton said. "I think it was just a different attitude. Last week, I over prepared, practiced too much, got a bit tired and got sick at end of week."
Thompson recovered from a slow start to make three birdies on her final three holes. The American teenager came into the tournament as one of the favorites, having won the Navistar LPGA Classic in September.
"I struggled with my putter until the 16th hole," Thompson said. "Then I figured some things out so it went well for the last three. I hit it well, just putts didn't drop. I'll just work on my putting and go out strong tomorrow."
Wie, who was hampered last year with a back injury and this year with a drop in form that saw her fall to 17th in the world rankings, had trouble with the greens. She missed several birdie chances, including on the ninth - her final hole of the day.
"Frustrating," Wie said. "It was one of those days where nothing went in and nothing went my way. It was pretty frustrating that I was 1-over par. I have tomorrow and my game is feeling pretty good so I just have to go out there and score."
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