RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Suzann Pettersen went for a practically flawless desert drive in the opening round of the season’s first major.
The Norwegian star, trying to bounce back from a hip injury, shot a bogey-free 5-under 67 in the Kraft Nabisco Championship on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead over former champion Lorena Ochoa, who missed birdie putts on her final two holes.
If there are any lingering symptoms from a hip injury that required a cortisone shot, they weren’t showing. Pettersen hit 12 fairways and 13 greens in regulation at 6,702-yard Mission Hills.
“It’s quite demanding off the tees, and there’s just certain tee shots you’ve just got to take on,” she said. “And I think if you can place it off the tee, I think you’re in a very good position. You’ve just got to play what this course gives you. I’ve learned that over the years. And patience, obviously. I would take a bogey-free round any day around this place.”
Asked if the greens or rough looked more difficult this year, she said: “I can’t really answer you about the rough.”
She does know she doesn’t want to find out.
“You get in there, you’re looking at just hacking it out and hopefully get somewhere around the green or on the green if you’re lucky,” she said. “So it’s quite important to keep the ball in play and give yourself a lot of good looks at the pins.”
Majors champions Karrie Webb, Yani Tseng and Karen Stupples were in a group at 69.
Defending champion Brittany Lincicome curled in a birdie putt on 12 to drop to 4 under before bogeying Nos. 13 and 15 to finish with a 70.
Michelle Wie had a 71.
Pettersen has two top-10 finishes in three starts this year. The hip injury kept her from swinging a club for about three weeks.
“I thought I was going to have two solid weeks of practice. It turned out to be two solid weeks on the couch,” said Pettersen, who won the 2007 LPGA Championship and has three straight top-5 finishes here.
Pettersen teed off shortly after 9 on a chilly morning.
“It got really cold as we warmed up,” she said. “I thought I was going to ski, the way I was dressed.”
It warmed up by late morning and turned into a pleasant day in the desert. The wind stayed down, and there are five majors winners within three shots of Pettersen.
Ochoa, who teed off three hours after Pettersen, had chances to tie the Norwegian star but rolled a long putt just right of the hole on No. 17 and then missed a 10-footer on 18. Top-ranked Ochoa, the 2008 champion, had six birdies and two bogeys.
“It was a good day for sure,” Ochoa said. “It helped me with a good start. I think that’s why I’m happy to have a good start because you never know what’ll happen tomorrow. You could show up here and all of a sudden the wind is 30 mph.”
Ochoa got off to a nice start with birdies on Nos. 2 and 3.
“I think I was putting for birdie on a lot of holes, so I think that will be a key,” she said. “I think tomorrow if I do the same, I should be in good shape.”
Tseng, who won the 2008 LPGA Championship, had an adventuresome round including an eagle, five birdies and four bogeys.