Bader secures early Safeway lead

Beth Bader

Beth Bader

NORTH PLAINS, Ore. – Beth Bader shot an 8-under 64 at the Safeway Classic Friday to take a 1-stroke lead into the second round at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.

Bader’s low score came early in the day before the winds picked up and rain moved in over the course west of Portland. Anna Nordqvist and Seon Hwa Lee each had 65s, a stroke in front of a group that was two shots back.

Bader’s round was her best since 2007. It was her best start to a tournament since the season-opening event in 2003.

“It’s nice to get off to a good start,” Bader said. “I’ve had a tendency of not getting off to a very good start and I haven’t been able to come back from that.”

Defending champion Cristie Kerr had a 69, playing in a star-studded group with Michelle Wie and Lorena Ochoa.

Kerr misplayed a chip shot from the rough on the 18th green to bogey her last hole of the day.

Just before Kerr’s chip, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds roared overhead. The aerial squadron was performing at the Oregon Air Show in Hillsboro, Ore., nearby.

“It was an interesting day,” Kerr said. “I hit it pretty bad, pretty poorly.”

Ochoa finished with a 70, while Wie birdied the final hole to end with a 68.

Wie, playing a full schedule on the tour for the first time this year, made a putt of some 30 feet for her birdie. She raised her arms and hopped when it dropped.

“It was pretty cool,” she said. “And I called it, too. I told my caddie, ‘I might chip this in.’”

Wie and Kerr were on the U.S. Solheim Cup team which defeated Europe last weekend at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.

Ten of the team’s 12 players were at the Safeway Classic. Paula Creamer withdrew before Friday’s first round because of illness.

She said it was a lingering bug she likely caught while playing in the team competition. She missed two tournaments earlier this year because of a stomach ailment.

Fellow teammate Juli Inkster withdrew earlier in the week.

“It was fun out there today,” Wie said. “I thought after last week it was going to be anticlimactic, but there were a lot of fans out there and they were really riled up to see us play.”

The large galleries from early in the day shrank quickly after Wie’s group finished their round. A light rain fell for about an hour, although play was never suspended.

The Safeway Classic was played for the previous 19 years at Columbia Edgewater Country Club near Portland International Airport.

Pumpkin Ridge, which opened in 2009, is made up of the private Witch Hollow course and the public Ghost Greek Course, about a 20-minute drive west of Portland. The club has hosted numerous events, including the 1996 U.S. Amateur, won by Tiger Woods, and the 2003 U.S. Women’s Open.

The Safeway Classic was being played on Ghost Creek, a par-72, 6,457-yard course with three straight par-5 holes.

Karrie Webb had a hole in one with a 4-iron on the 184-yard No. 5 hole Friday.

Last year at Columbia Edgewater, Kerr beat Swedes Helen Alfredsson and Sophie Gustafson with a 15-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole.

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