Golf: One cup of joe helps nervous Diaz cope on the tee

Laura Diaz will have her single cup of coffee on Friday morning like she does before every round of golf and then keep telling herself it's just another tournament.

Diaz, who is seeking her first win on the USLPGA Tour in 12 years, fired a sizzling bogey-free 62 Thursday to grab a four-shot lead after the opening round of the Marathon Classic.

"I think that I've done a lot of work on my mental game and I know better than anyone that just because you make one birdie doesn't mean you're going to make 18," said Diaz.

The 39-year-old American leads South Africa's Lee-Anne Pace and Austin Ernst, of the US, at Highland Meadows Golf Club.

- 'Nerves my entire career' -

Diaz says she recently hired a new mental therapy coach to help ease the nerves she feels at the beginning of each round which are so strong they usually have her shaking on the first tee.

"Yeah, physical shaking. Nerves, I guess," she said. "Today I was a little calmer.

"For a while I've done a lot of shaking when I start my round. I can't remember exactly when it started. I know that I've always been nervous. I think that everybody says that nerves show that you care.

"So I've always had the nerves my entire career. After having my second one -- my second child -- I tended to get a little more nervous out there and be a little more unsure of myself.

"Usually it takes about two holes and I settle in. It goes away. Could be the coffee I drink in the morning, the one cup. I only drink one cup. And I always make sure it's two hours before I play."

Something gave Diaz that extra boost she needed on Thursday. Diaz narrowly missed equalling her career best for most birdies in a row as she rolled in five straight beginning at the 10th hole. She once had six birdies in a row at the British Open.

"It was great to get out and get five in a row. I had a six or seven footer for six in a row," she said.

- Kids, family 'first' -

Diaz says she almost stopped playing at the end of 2013 because she missed being with her family, especially her children who are age eight and four.

"I was in a place where I didn't want to play. Where I didn't know if it was worth being away from my kids anymore," Diaz said.

"I chose not to go back to (qualifying) school because that's the place I was in. I was torn physically about being that far away from the kids.

"My kids and my family are first. If you can get your heart in the right place, you know."

Ernst and Pace teed off in the afternoon. They knew they were chasing a low number after Diaz posted her score in the morning groups. Ernst and Pace finished their rounds at five-under 66.

Three-time USLPGA Tour winner Lydia Ko is five shots back of the lead at four-under 67. The 17-year-old Kiwi is joined there by British Open winner Mo Martin, Katie Burnett, Mariajo Uribe, Aussie Lindsey Wright and Marissa Steen.

Defending champion Beatriz Recari ended the day eight shots off the lead at one-under 70, while US Women's Open champion Michelle Wie stumbled to a three-over 74, leaving her well off the pace.