In-form Ko leads LPGA's Tour Championship

Lydia Ko is closing in on LPGA player-of-the-year honours after storming to the first-round lead at the lucrative season-ending Tour Championship in Florida.

The red-hot New Zealander is also on track to return to women's golf's top ranking following a sizzling seven-under-par 65 start on Thursday at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples.

After opening with a bogey, Ko reeled off eight birdies including four straight on the back nine.

She could only laugh at her start to the tournament after hitting a tree at the first hole.

"It's almost like I had two tee shots," Ko said.

"Even though I bogeyed a par 5, I knew plenty of holes were going to play downwind. I tried not to get too frustrated. The first four holes into the wind are a beast. I knew if I could hang on and be patient, there would be a lot of opportunities.

"I was able to grab a lot of them on the back nine."

The tour's 2022 scoring average leader has a one-stroke lead over American Danielle Kang and Thailand's Pajaree Anannarukarn, with Scotland's last-start winner Gemma Dryburgh and Korean Hyo Joo Kim two shots back at five under.

With two victories and 11 top-10s this season, Ko leads the player-of-the-year race by one point over Australian Minjee Lee with the Kiwi's destiny in her own hands.

The 25-year-old can also regain the world No.1 ranking if she wins on Sunday and American Nelly Korda finishes outside the top 20.

The signs look good.

Ko won the Tour Championship in 2014 and has only finished outside the top 20 once in nine previous starts at Tiburon Golf Club.

"If I'm holding the trophy, holding all the trophies or no trophy ... I just want to have a good week," Ko said.

"These opportunities don't come along very often. I want to try to grab it when it's there."

Korda opened with a four-under 68 to be tied sixth after the first round.

Lee, who must finish inside the top 10, above Ko and hope Canadian Brooke Henderson or Thai teenager Atthaya Thitikul don't win the tournament, carded a 71 to be tied for 23rd spot.

Henderson is sharing sixth with Korda at four under, while Thitikul is joint 41st after a one-over 73.

Hannah Green, the only other Australian in the elite 60-player field, had a disappointing 74 to be nine shots behind Ko in a share of 48th position.

The champion will pocket a cheque for $US2 million ($A3m) - the biggest of the year.

With AP.