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Three Establish Pace in LPGA's First Major of the Year


Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Na Yeon Choi and Suzann Pettersen each carded 4-under 68s to share the opening-round lead in the Kraft Nabisco Championship. The LPGA Tour's first major of the year began Thursday at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Shadoff, an Englishwoman who got married to Adam Shadoff in January, posted six birdies - including four straight on Nos. 11-14 - and two bogeys, while seven-time winner Choi of South Korean and Pettersen of Norway, who's won 10 times on the LPGA Tour, each put up four birdies.

Choi and Pettersen were paired in the first round of the $2 million tournament and they helped each other to get off to fine starts.

"I think I had a pretty good round today, especially (since) I played with Suzann today," said Choi. "I think I played well because she played well, too. I think we had a great round, and we motivated each other on the course. You know, she's a strong competitor, but I tried to chase her until the last hole. I finished strong, and I had a great round today."

Pettersen was also happy how she played. "Today was everything I could ask for (an) opening round," said the 31-year-old. "Just feeling really good all week, and it's just about kind of trusting what you have, and I couldn't ask for a better start.

"Bogey-free, gave myself a lot of chances," added Pettersen, "feeling good with my game, and if you hit a lot of fairways here you give yourself a lot of great looks on your approach shots, and I feel like I'm striking my irons good and I'm hitting a lot of shots that I'm seeing. So good."

Sharing fourth after 69s are South Korean Amy Yang and Sweden's Anna Nordqvist, while two strokes off the pace lurk 11 players. Six others posted 1-under 71s, and a whopping 21 players shot even-par 72s, including former No. 1 Yani Tseng and Michelle Wie.

Wie was paired with 15-year-old amateur sensation Lydia Ko, who matched her 72. Wie was once a much-heralded teenage amateur and is now a relatively grizzled veteran at 23. She was impressed with the New Zealander, who carded three birdies and a like number of bogeys Thursday.

"She's damned good," Wie told reporters. "You know, 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."

The round was a thrill for Ko, who counts Wie as one of her heroines in golf. "It was fun. She's my idol, so I was very excited," said Ko, who got the attention of the golf world by winning the Canadian Women's Open last August by three strokes.

Stacy Lewis, who supplanted Tseng as the top-ranked woman player in March after recording her second title of the year in the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup in March, opened with a 73.

Lewis started okay, with two birdies and a bogey on the front nine for a 1-under 35. But the former Arkansas All-American encountered problems on the back, carding a triple-bogey on the par-3 14th before a birdie on the par-3 17th for a 2-over 38. Despite her travails on the home half at Mission Hills, Lewis put on a good face afterwards.

"Considering I made a triple and I shot 1-over, yes, it's good," she told reporters of her round. "You know, the greens might be as firm as I've ever seen them for early in the week. Fairways - the problem is if you land short, it hits and stops," Lewis said of her difficulty in dealing with the conditions at Mission Hills.

"You land on the green and it releases. The greens are firm and it's playing hard, so I knew I just - if I could somehow on the back nine get it back to even, I would be right there."

Paula Creamer, a nine-time winner whose last victory came in the 2010 U.S. Women's Open at Oakmont, opened with a 74. Defending champion Sun Young Yoo shot a 77.

For all the scores, visit http://www.lpgascoring.com/public/Leaderboard.