Na Yeon Choi, Suzann Pettersen and Jodi Ewart Shadoff share a one-shot lead over Amy Yang and Anna Nordqvist entering today's second round of the $2 million Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Choi, Pettersen and Ewart Shadoff all shot four-under-par 68s Thursday at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage in the LPGA's first major tournament of the year.
Choi and Pettersen were paired together and both had bogey-free rounds, while Ewart Shadoff had six birdies and bogies on the par-3 fifth and par-4 16th.
"I think I played well because she played well," said Choi, a South Korean who is third on the Rolex Women's Golf Rankings.
"I think we had a great round and we motivated each other on the course. She's a great competitor, but I tried to chase her until the last hole."
Choi and Pettersen played the back nine first. Choi sank a slightly more than 30-foot putt from the fringe on the par-three 14th hole for her first birdie.
After parring the par-4 15th hole, Choi had back-to-back birdies on the 16th and 17th holes and finished her round with a birdie on the par-5 ninth.
Pettersen birdied the 16th through 18th holes and the seventh.
"Today was everything I could ask for (in an) opening round," said Pettersen, a Norwegian who finished second in the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2010 and tied for second in 2007 and 2008. "Bogey-free, gave myself a lot of chances, feeling good with my game.
"If you hit a lot of fairways here, you give yourself a lot of great looks on your approach shots. I feel like I'm striking my irons good and I'm hitting a lot of shots that I'm seeing."
Ewart Shadoff is a 25-year-old from England who played for the University of New Mexico and whose best finish in an LPGA event is a tie for seventh in the 2012 Kia Classic.
Ewart Shadoff said she "didn't think I was going to shoot that low, but I holed some great putts. My putting has come a long way in the past couple months."
Ewart Shadoff was playing in the last group on the back nine when, she said, "the wind picked up quite a bit in the last 20 minutes," making the final three holes "pretty difficult," but she was able to par all of them.
Eleven golfers are two shots behind the leaders at two-under-par-70.
Among the 21 golfers at even-par 72, four shots behind the leaders, are 15-year-old Lydia Ko of New Zealand, the world's top-ranked woman amateur golfer, who has won three professional tournaments, one-time prodigy Michelle Wie, and Yani Tseng of Taiwan, whose 109-week reign as the world's top-ranked player ended March 18 after American Stacy Lewis won her second consecutive tournament.
"She's damned good," Wie said of Ko, her playing partner in Thursday's first round. "She hits it straight and she's not short. She's pretty long and a good putter, good short game, just really solid of a round. Doesn't really play like a 15-year-old."
Ko called Wie her idol. Wie said it was "weird" and "really strange" to play with someone who calls you her idol.
Tseng said she "thought I could play a little better because I missed a few short putts out there."
Lewis was among nine players shooting one-over-par 73s, five shots behind the leaders.
"I was in a couple divots and it was just kind of a strange day," Lewis said. "I'm definitely disappointed, but I made some putts there on the back nine, which was kind of nice."
I.K. Kim, who had a one-foot par putt break to the right on the final hole of regulation in last year's tournament, forcing a sudden-death playoff, which she lost to fellow South Korean Sun Young Yoo, shot a three-over-par 75.
Yoo's hopes of repeating as champion suffered a major setback as she shot a five-over-par 77.