GUADALAJARA, Mexico — Hall of Famer Juli Inkster shot a bogey-free 5-under 67 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead with Suzann Pettersen in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.
The 51-year-old Inkster is trying to become the oldest winner in LPGA Tour history. Beth Daniel was 46 when she won the 2003 Canadian Women’s Open.
“I love Lorena and I would love to win this tournament because Lorena’s name is attached to it,” Inkster said. “Everyone on tour feels the same way. You know Lorena is such a special person. Everyone on tour respects her and it would definitely be special to win this event. But I’ve got a long way to go.”
Ochoa is expecting her first child next month. The 27-time LPGA Tour winner retired last year.
Inkster won the last of her 31 LPGA Tour titles in 2006.
“I just kind of played very consistent, hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens, made a few putts,” Inkster said. “I chipped in one on No. 9 for birdie. It was kind of just a very laid back round. I don’t have too many, so it was nice. … I’m just not swinging hard at it, just trying to get it in the fairway. My grip strength seems to be a little weaker, but I laid off really the last three weeks. I’ve just played once and hit balls a couple times. Maybe that’s what I need to do, just have a little fresh outlook, maybe not expect so much.”
Pettersen had six birdies and a bogey on the Guadalajara Country Club course. The Norwegian star has won two LPGA Tour events this year — the Sybase Match Play Championship in May in New Jersey and the Safeway Classic in August in Oregon, and also led Europe to victory in the Solheim Cup in September in Ireland.
“It’s been a very nice year,” Pettersen said. “You can never complain when you get wins. One win is great, two wins is fantastic. It kind of makes my season look average when Yani (Tseng) has won seven tournaments on the LPGA. She makes us all work harder. It’s easy to reflect back on what’s been when you get to this part of the year, but trying to really stay focused on this week and next week and then try to just sit down and evaluate after. But you kind of do it halfway in your head anyway. I’m looking forward to some time off, but I’m ready to finish strong this week and then hopefully next week, as well.”
Pettersen finished second last year, two strokes behind I.K. Kim.
“It’s a great start to this tournament,” Pettersen said. “It’s obviously a nice tournament. I love this course, and it’s nice to be here at Lorena’s home club and in front of her kind of home crowd.
“This is just a very old-fashioned golf course, tree-lined. We have to shape it a little bit off the tee. This year, the greens are a little bit firmer, so that makes the challenge a little bit harder coming into the greens, especially with a front pin. But I can see why you get to love the game if you grow up playing this course because this is the old-fashioned way.”
Meena Lee opened with a 68, and Catriona Matthew was another shot behind in the 36-player event. Michelle Wie, the 2009 winner, was three strokes back at 70 along with Se Ri Pak, Maria Hjorth, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr and Sophie Gustafson. Kim had a 72.
The Top-ranked Tseng was 34th after a 76.
Tseng is coming off victories in the LPGA Tour’s Taiwan Championship and Ladies European Tour’s Suzhou Taihu Ladies in China. The Taiwanese star has seven LPGA Tour wins this season, including major victories in the LPGA Championship and Women’s British Open, and four other worldwide wins. She tied for 18th in 2008 in the inaugural event in Guadalajara, tied for eighth in 2009 and was 27th last year.