RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Amy Yang shot a 6-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead over Lindsey Wright in the opening round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship on Thursday.
Yani Tseng was third at 68, ending the top-ranked player’s streak of eight consecutive rounds with the lead. The five-time major champion has won two straight tournaments and three of five this season, while Yang and Wright have never won on the LPGA Tour.
The 22-year-old Yang made five birdies in seven holes around the turn at Mission Hills, using a steady putting stroke to take the early lead in the first major of the year.
Wearing oversized sunglasses even while putting, Michelle Wie opened with a 73. Defending champion Stacy Lewis had four consecutive bogeys in a 74.
Wright’s 67 with five birdies on the back nine of the Dinah Shore Tournament Course is another positive step in the 32-year-old Australian’s comeback from depression and anxiety. After quitting golf for the final four months of last year, Wright returned with a victory in the New Zealand Women’s Open last month, followed by this strong start at Mission Hills.
“It wasn’t a great time, and I just couldn’t really get through it,” Wright said. “It’s hard to explain other than from a physical standpoint. People think, ‘Depression, oh, just get over it.’ It really impacts you physically, and playing on this tour, grinding it out each week when you’re not sleeping and you can’t concentrate or focus, it just gets you down, and it’s a bit of a nightmare.”
Yang chipped in from the fringe for birdie on the 13th, highlighting a strong start at Mission Hills for the former teen sensation. Yang has five top-10 finishes in majors over the previous three years after winning on the European tour, but the table tennis enthusiast who idolizes fellow Korean pro Se Ri Pak hasn’t broken through to hold an LPGA Tour trophy.
“Everything was working well,” Yang said. “I think especially my putting was better than other tournaments. I had a couple of shots that went into the trees, and it was hard to play, but I had some good par saves and good birdie putts.”
Lewis has spent the week fulfilling innumerable public-relations duties as the returning Kraft Nabisco champ, and those long days might have affected her game. She reached the turn with four consecutive bogeys, slapping the head of her putter in anger after missing a putt on the eighth hole.
“People were cheering me around the whole day,” Lewis said. “I just couldn’t quite get things going.”
Tseng knows plenty about distractions and exhaustion after dominating the tour over the past year or so: She felt tired during practice rounds this week after driving from San Diego to Palm Springs following her victory in the Kia Classic in Carlsbad last Sunday.
Tseng also bogeyed the eighth with a feeble chip out of the greenside rough, but the Taiwanese star gathered herself for four birdies in the next six holes.
“I was really disappointed today,” Tseng said. “I don’t hit many good shots, and I don’t leave myself lots of birdie chances out there.”