RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) — Brittany Lincicome and Stacy Lewis are splitting more than dinner checks and lodging bills at the LPGA Tour’s first major of the year.
The fast friends and occasional road roommates overcame the stifling desert heat to shoot 6-under 66s Thursday, sharing the first-round lead at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Sandra Gal and Mika Miyazato were one shot back, while world No. 1 Yani Tseng was in a group in 10th place at 2 under.
Despite playing in the hotter part of an unseasonably scorching day, Lincicome and Lewis handled the fast, dry Mission Hills course with similar aplomb after temperatures topped 90 degrees by midday in the Palm Springs area. Their caddies were given permission to take off their jumpsuits when it rose above 100 during the afternoon rounds.
Although they aren’t rooming together this week because their parents made the trip, they went to dinner together Wednesday night and chatted with Rosie Jones before making identically excellent starts.
“Stacy has been a great friend for a little while now,” Lincicome said. “If we don’t want our fathers or mothers to go to a tournament, we’ll stay together, but she’s just a really nice girl. We’re kind of the same age, very low-maintenance for both of us, so it’s very easy-going.”
Lincicome’s win at the 2009 Kraft Nabisco champion is the three-time tour winner’s only victory in nearly four years, while Lewis is still looking for her first win on tour. Lincicome is off to a remarakbly consistent start this season, while Lewis is hoping to harness her increased strength for better results.
The heat is supposed to break on the weekend, but Lincicome and Lewis both worried about the damage.
“Being a course that I love and I love to play, I’d hate for them to lose the greens,” Lincicome said. “Especially No. 1, and there was one other green turning brown, even – or purple, which can’t be good.”
Lewis made three straight birdies on the back nine immediately after her only bogey, hitting consecutive exceptional iron shots.
Lewis has significantly improved her distance over the past year, adding 25 yards to her drives with help from strength training and swing coaching. After bouncing back from surgery to correct her scoliosis during college, Lewis is hoping her play can be an inspiration to others with spinal woes, including a group of young girls she visited during the LPGA Founders Cup in Phoenix two weeks ago.
“I really don’t mind the heat at all,” Lewis said. “I’d rather have hot and humid heat than dry heat, but I grew up in Texas during the summers, so I’m used to playing when it’s over 100 degrees. I say bring it, because the ball goes a mile, so I like it.”
Gal chipped in from 15 yards on her fourth hole and hung on for another solid opening round with strong putting. The lanky German earned her first career victory at last week’s Kia Classic, played in chilly conditions outside Los Angeles.
“With your first win, you still don’t know what to expect coming into the next week,” Gal said. “All the people that came to me and all the congrats from everyone, which I really appreciate, it was a lot. So I probably didn’t prepare as well as I would for a major championship normally.”
Karrie Webb shot a 69, while Morgan Pressel joined Tseng at 70. Tseng was partnered with Gal.
“So hot today,” Tseng said. There’s no wind. I had an umbrella out there.”
Michelle Wie felt grateful to escape with an opening-round 74, making three bogeys in her quest for her first major title.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Wie said. “I did a lot of damage control today, so hopefully tomorrow I’ll do a lot better.”