When I picked Ai Miyazato to win the Tres Marias Championship, I was really just hoping she'd remember how to make more than 1 birdie per round again. After winning the 1st 2 LPGA events of the new season, she sandwiched trouble on the longer courses on the West Coast swing between indifferent results on the JLPGA. Well, after making 4 birdies in a row after parring the 1st hole today, she never looked back, making 3 more pairs of consecutive birdies toward the middle and end of her round. Good thing she did, because if Azahara Munoz hadn't made a bogey a side, she would have matched Ai-sama's 63. Munoz barely stayed ahead of 3 other leading lights in the LPGA's New Blood generation, Michelle Wie (66), Mariajo Uribe (67), and Amanda Blumenherst (68). With so many up-and-coming stars of the LPGA shooting the lights out, Miyazato's playing partner Lorena Ochoa's own 66 was in danger of being overshadowed. After starting on the par-5 10th hole with an eagle, she followed it up with 4 more birdies on the back but offset 2 of them with an early and late bogey. She closed out the front with a bogey-free 33 to tie Wie in 3rd place.
Even though 16 players broke 70, 46 went under par, and 55 shot par or better, it wasn't all fun and games out there. Angela Stanford WDed after shooting an 85, 12 other players failed to break 80 (including Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak), Mi Hyun Kim and Stacy Prammanasudh shot 79s, Brittany Lang and Vicky Hurst shot 77s, Juli Inkster, Morgan Pressel, and Hee Young Park shot 76s, and Amy Yang opened with a 75. They all will be fighting just to make the cut tomorrow.
Just as those who started badly have a lot of ground to make up, so do those who started slowly. Suzann Pettersen finds herself 10 shots behind Ai-sama after 18 holes, Song-Hee Kim and Anna Nordqvist are 7 back, and Na Yeon Choi and In-Kyung Kim are 6 off the pace. Surprisingly, Karen Stupples, who like Pak was playing Tres Marias for the 1st time today, finds herself within 3 shots of the lead. Let's see how she holds up on the mountainous course over the next 54 holes. Ditto for Sherri Steinhauer, who opened with a fine 70.
[Update 1 (9:55 pm): Check it out--a good AP game story on the LPGA!]
[Update 2 (10:05 pm): Nice job by Beth Ann Baldry, too!]
[Update 3 (4/30/10, 7:00 am): Don't know where ESPN Deportes got the idea that Ai-sama's been a pro for only "cuatro anos," but otherwise a good story on "La jugadora oriental" and her 1st round!]
[Update 4 (7:04 am): Here's LPGA.com's notes and interviews page.]