Lorena Ochoa opened up a 4-shot lead on Player of the Year race leader Ji-Yai Shin in the 1st round of the LPGA Tour Championship today. Both players started on the back in the morning pairings, but they finished quite differently. Ochoa fired a tournament-leading 66, making 3 of her 8 birdies on the day in her last 4 holes, while Shin was busy bogeying 2 of her last 4 holes and finishing +2 over her last 8 holes to drop back to T9 at -2. Meanwhile, Michelle Wie, who finished +3 over her last 6 holes, including a double bogey on the par-3 17th, to settle for a 72, later announced that her ankle injury was forcing her to withdraw.
With Ya Ni Tseng the only elite player to break 70 besides Ochoa--no disrespect to Reilley Rankin (67), Taylor Leon (68), or the others who also shot 69s, including Solheim Cupper Kristy McPherson and 6-time winner on tour Pat Hurst--Ochoa has opened up a little bit of breathing space for herself. But Na Yeon Choi (70), Anna Nordqvist (70), Stacy Lewis (70), Katherine Hull (71), Cristie Kerr (72), Suzann Pettersen (72), Se Ri Pak (72), Hee-Won Han (72), Morgan Pressel (72), Angela Stanford (73), Ai Miyazato (73), In-Kyung Kim (73), and Song-Hee Kim (73) have just the game needed to tame the Houstonian over the next 54 holes, in addition to Shin and Tseng, so there's no way Ochoa can let down if she wants to win her 4th-straight POY and Vare Trophy. Meanwhile, players as great as Karrie Webb (75), Paula Creamer (76), Eun-Hee Ji (76), Vicky Hurst (76), Amy Yang (76), Candie Kung (78), Christina Kim (79), and Seon Hwa Lee (79) will need to play great tomorrow just to make it into the weekend. As for making the Saturday cut (top 30 and ties), that's going to take another 18 great holes. Let's see what happens!