Thunderstorms necessitated a 5-hour delay to the start of the NW Arkansas Championship, but the soft conditions they left behind led to very low scoring for the Junior Mints going out in the opening pairings. H.J. Choi was the first to post a low number--a 66, to be precise--thanks to 4 consecutive birdies from the 17th through the 2nd hole. Morgan Pressel was next; she posted 3 straight birdies to erase back-to-back bogeys earlier in the back and close with a 69 (T7). Choi was the leader in the clubhouse for less than a half-hour, however, as Ai Miyazato and Seon Hwa Lee, playing together, got into a classic "anything you can do I can do better" game. Lee got things started with birdies on 4 of 5 holes in the middle of the front, while Miyazato responded with 5 birdies between the 7th and 13th hole, the last 3 in a row. Then Lee birdied 4 in a row, starting where Miyazato left off, on the par-5 13th. Although both bogeyed the par-3 17th, Ai-chan parred 18 for a fine 67, while Seon Hwa birdied it for a fantastic 64.
The top 2 Super Sophs set off some fireworks of their own, as well. Eun-Hee Ji led the way with a bogey-free 67, followed by Inbee Park, who eagled the par-5 13th on her way to a 70. In the later pairings, Kristy McPherson got right into the act with birdies on her 1st 4 holes on the back before breaking the streak with a bogey on the par-5 14th and resuming it with a birdie on the par-3 15th.
If July 4th sounds like a day in which youth is being served, consider that Stacy Lewis, who just turned pro before the U.S. Women's Open qualifier, shot a 69, while rookies Shanshan Feng matched it and Hee Young Park has a chance to surpass it with 2 holes left to play. The top "veterans" on the leaderboard are Soo-Yun Kang (class of 2001) and Il Mi Chung (class of 2004); the latter bogeyed her 2 final holes on the front (erasing an eagle on the par-5 2nd) to drop back to a 69, while the former birdied 3 of her last 5 on the same side for a 68 (T5).
More later after the real fireworks!
[Update 1 (7/5/08, 9:29 am): The fireworks were awesome! And so was Kristy McPherson, who just finished her 1st round this morning by breaking her 7-hole par streak with birdies on 3 of her final 4 holes on the front to match Lee's 64. Jeong Jang shot a 30 on the back, topping McPherson's 31, to post a 66 and move into a tie with H.J. Choi at T3. More scores to come as the players come in!]
[Update 2 (9:32 am): Angela Park continued the youth movement with an eagle on the par-5 7th hole for a 69 (T11).]
[Update 3 (10:01 am): Jee Young Lee birdied the 9th hole, her last one, to join Jeong and Choi at 66. Wouldn't have expected a bogey-free round from her on this course, but that's what's so great about golf! "Veteran" Meena Lee (who joined the LPGA when Paula Creamer did in 2005) joined Miyazato and Ji at 67 (T6 now). And new mom Karen Stupples joined Soo-Yun Kang at 68--the first real veteran on the top of the leaderboard!]
[Update 4 (10:14 am): Speaking of Creamer, I'm sorry to report that she, Momoko Ueda, and Moira Dunn are hanging out together at +1; here's hoping they all end up on the right side of the cut line by the end of the day today!]
[Update 5 (10:21 am): And speaking of disappointing rounds, who would ahve predicted that Song-Hee Kim would shot a 73 and only get beat by 1 shot by Cristie Kerr, Mi Hyun Kim, Hee-Won Han, Sun Young Yoo, Minea Blomqvist, In-Kyung Kim, Candie Kung, and Natalie Gulbis? Or that Grace Park, Pat Hurst, and Lorie Kane would be right there with them?]
[Update 6 (11:51 am): An official Mostly Harmless "You Go, Girl!" for Helen Alfredsson, whose 65 puts her in solo 2nd and erases any f-words that may have been associated with her runner-up at the U.S. Women's Open. Well, at least the ones that start with fl.... She shot a 30 on the front (her back)!]
[Update 7 (1:13 pm): Stupid LPGA.com! Turns out Mi Hyun Kim had a 73--played bogey-free golf except for a triple on the par-4 12th. They've started the second round, so time for a new post soon....]
[Update 8 (1:21 pm): But not before linking to Hound Dog's recap and Noah Trister's AP story! Enjoy TV coverage--it starts in 9 minutes!]