Maria Hjorth has birdied 4 holes in a row from the 16th through the 1st on the Blackhawk track that's hosting the Longs Drugs Challenge to jump out to an early lead at -5 through 11. That tops Lorena Ochoa's 3-hole birdie streak on the 11th through 13th even earlier in the day.
Also off to good starts are Laura Davies (-4 through 11), Wendy Ward (-4 through 11), Michelle McGann (-3 through 14), Michele Redman (-3 through 9 thanks to 3 birdies in a row on the 3rd through 5th), and Kate Golden (-3 through 13 thanks to an eagle on the par-5 11th). Way to go, vets!
But don't worry--the kids are all right. Just not the ones you'd expect. Meaghan Francella is -3 through 13, Julieta Granada shot a 32 on the back, and Charlotte Mayorkas is -2 through 15. Even Sarah Lee is getting into the comeback act; she's -3 through 14.
[Update 1 (4:55 pm): Nice job by Sarah Kemp to come back with a pair of consecutive birdies late in her round to erase a double bogey on the par-5 3rd hole that threatened to torpedo her 31 on the back. Her 68 gets her into a tie for 3rd with Ward, Lee, and Francella. Meanwhile Sophie Giquel shot a nice 32 on the back to lift her into a tie for 7th at -3 with Golden, Granada, and Mayorkas. But Hjorth extended her lead on them with her 66 today, marred only by a bogey on the par-3 7th hole.]
[Update 2 (4:56 pm): Not everyone finished strong, though. Davies was -5 with only a handful of holes to go but took a devastating triple bogey on the par-4 6th hole to open with a 70 today. McGann had to settle for a 71 after consecutive bogeys late on the back 9. Juli Inkster was -4 with 2 holes to play, but bogeyed the tough 8th and also bogeyed the par-5 9th to drop to T11 thus far. And Ai Miyazato was -2 through her 1st 5 holes, but a double on the 8th and a birdie and bogey early and late on the back brought her down to T42 at E.]
[Update 3 (5:05 pm): Others are even more disappointed after their 1st rounds, though. Seon Hwa Lee was -2 through 7 but made 3 bogeys over her next 7 holes and didn't make a birdie the rest of the way to shoot a 73 that dropped her all the way back to T62 so far. Jane Park couldn't get anything going today and shot a 75. At least Stacy Lewis hung in there for her roller-coaster 71. And despite a double on the 3rd, Na Yeon Choi went bogey-free the rest of her day to tie her. But Redman has to be absolutely overjoyed to have chased Hjorth down with 3 birdies in her last 5 holes!]
[Update 4 (7:57 pm): In-Kyung Kim just eagled the difficult 8th hole, her next-to-last on the day, to leap to -4. Not to be outpaced, Ya Ni Tseng birdied it to join her in a tie for 3rd thus far. Suzann Pettersen and Mikaela Parmlid have several holes left to attempt to pass them and catch Hjorth and Redman. Rachel Hetherington had a chance to do the same, but bogeyed the 8th to fall back to -3.]
[Update 5 (8:02 pm): Ochoa, by the way, didn't make a single birdie after her trio early in the day, but she did make a bogey to fall back to -2 (T17 right now). Mi Hyun Kim just bogeyed 18 and ended the day at -1 (T29). Joining Miyazato at E (T40) were Jeong Jang and Laura Diaz from the morning and Eun-Hee Ji and Hee-Won Han from the afternoon.]
[Update 6 (8:05 pm): Wow, In-Kyung Kim followed up her eagle with a birdie to fire a 67 and take sole possession of 3rd place! Tseng parred the 9th to become the 5th player to shoot a 68 thus far today (T4).]
[Update 7 (8:15 pm): Angela Stanford has stabilized her game after a 3-hole bogey train almost derailed her front side; she countered with a pair of birdies on each of the 3 holes surrounding those bogeys and has just birdied the par-4 17th to get back to -2. In contrast, both Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer have made a double bogey on each side to lose whatever momentum they had momentarily generated; the former is +3 and the latter is +2 with the 17th and 18th to play; playing partner Pettersen is still -4.]
[Update 8 (8:22 pm): Speaking of Americans doubling up on double bogeys, Stacy Prammanasudh fought back to -3 through 11 after her front-side double, but then went bogey-double to drop back to E, where she stands with the 18th left to play. Her playing partner, Christina Kim, took a quad on the par-3 7th never recovered--she's now +6. Good thing the Solheim Cup is a long time away.]
[Update 9 (8:28 pm): Pettersen just birdied 17 to join Kim at -5. If she can make a par or better on the 18th, she'll have a bogey-free opening round.]
[Update 10 (10/10/08, 5:50 am): Darn it, jinxed her! 68 for Pettersen, same as Reilley Rankin, but it was Parmlid who made it to and stayed at -5. Surprising 1st day!]
[Update 11: (5:54 am): As always, Hound Dog is a model of concision and organization; plus, he found out that Hjorth is pregnant! Wonder where--it's not on LPGA.com!]
[Update 12: (6:32 am): Lower down the leaderboard, Pressel ended up coming back and tying Creamer at +2 (T67), Moira got it back to +1 (T53), and Brittany Land made 3 birdies on the front after opening with 3 bogeys on the back to climb to E (T40). But here's what a weird day it was: Violeta Retamozo, who's been playing horrifically bad this season, opened with a 72, while Sun Young Yoo, whi's been having a career season, stumbled to an 82. Aree Song, who's been out most of this year and last with a serious illness, salvaged a 76, while Christina Kim, who's been MIA lately, needed a birdie on her final hole to shoot a 77. Yikes! This is almost as topsy-turvy an event as the Women's World Amateur, where the American team of Amanda Blumenherst, Alison Walshe, and Tiffany Joh is languishing in 8th, 21 shots behind the Swedish team of Caroline Hedwall, Anna Nordqvist, and Pernilla Lindberg and 13 shots behind the Spanish team of Carlota Ciganda, Azahara Munoz, and Belen Mozo.]
[Update 13 (9:24 am): Ron Kroichick has more details on Redman and Hjorth (who's due in February and hopes to return to competitive golf by May!).]