RANCHO MIRAGE -- Lorena Ochoa figured anything around par is good enough at a major. It took four birdies in a row to get into the mix Thursday at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Starting with a sand wedge to 2 feet on the 18th hole (her ninth hole of the day) that she called her best shot of the first round, Ochoa zoomed up the leaderboard with a string of birdies around the turn and settled for an opening round of 4-under 68, leaving her one shot behind Karen Stupples.
"It was important to get a couple of birdies early in the round and get some momentum," Ochoa said.
Ochoa is trying to become the first woman since Annika Sorenstam in 2005 to win consecutive majors, having won her first last summer at St. Andrews in the Women's British Open. And while a three-putt bogey from the fringe and over severe humps on the par-3 eighth kept her from a share of the lead, Ochoa showed why she is such an overwhelming favorite.
Playing with defending champion Morgan Pressel, Ochoa powered one tee shot after another down the middle of the fairway, well past trouble and usually 40 yards past Pressel. (Pressel shot a 71, hitting just five greens in regulation.)
It finally paid off with the four consecutive birdies, three from inside 6 feet.
Stupples, who won the Women's British Open in 2004 and is getting back into the swing after giving birth to her first child last year, was the first to play and made it around Mission Hills without a bogey for 67. Ai Miyazato of Japan birdied her last hole for a 68 to join Ochoa. Natalie Gulbis and Heather Young are at 69.
Under sunny skies with a strong wind that was still manageable, Stupples picked up easy birdies on two of the par 5s, then capped off her round with a 6-iron on the par-3 17th to within 6 feet.
It was a good sign that her strength is back nearly a year after her son, Logan, was born.
"Up until about a month ago, I hadn't really regained my full strength," she said. "All of a sudden, it came back almost overnight. And that was really good to see, that I was able to get through the ball."
PGA TOUR, at Humble, Texas -- Defending champion Adam Scott overcame a fever and swollen glands around his throat, shooting a course-record 9-under 63 in calm early conditions for a share of the Houston Open lead.
Johnson Wagner matched Scott's 63 late in the day. Wagner also shared the first-round lead last year and shared the previous Tournament Course at Redstone record (64) with Bubba Watson. Charley Hoffman was two behind the leaders after a 65, and Steve Stricker was three back.
Scott struggled to get out of bed before his tee time and visited a doctor after his round. In between, the Australian was practically flawless, reaching 17 of 18 greens in regulation and needing only 28 putts.