PRATTVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Jill McGill, Jane Park and Jeong Jang shot 7-under 65s on Thursday for a share of the Navistar LPGA Classic lead, while top-ranked Lorena Ochoa was two strokes back in her first event in a month.
Ochoa played her first competitive round since tying for sixth in the Safeway Classic on Aug. 24, her fourth top-seven finish in a row, but seventh straight winless start. She opened the year with six victories in nine starts, including four straight.
“I’m in a better place mentally,” Ochoa said. “I feel very comfortable. I worked a lot on my game and it’s always good to get back to competition. I’m going to do my best this week and hopefully win the trophy.”
Safeway winner Cristie Kerr and Janice Moodie opened with 66s on the links-style Senator Course at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s Capitol Hill complex. Sandra Gal, Katie Futcher, Ji Young Oh and Louise Friberg matched Ochoa with 67s.
“I do like this course,” Kerr said. “It suits my game. You have to hit good irons into greens and you have to be a good putter. You have to be smart with club selection off the tees. I work really well with my caddie, John Killeen, on that.”
Sweden’s Maria Hjorth, the winner last year in the inaugural event, opened with a 76. Angela Stanford, coming off a victory Sept. 14 in the Bell Micro LPGA Classic in Mobile, withdrew before the round. No reason was given for her decision.
McGill, winless in 13 seasons on the tour, had seven birdies in a bogey-free round.
“We had really good conditions for the front nine. I would say the wind really was not a factor,” McGill said. “When we got to the back side, it picked up a little bit and halfway through the back side it switched directions on us. So as long as you know your directional compass, I think you’re all right out there.”
Park had eight birdies and a bogey.
“I’ve been really working on my ball-striking because I’ve been struggling with it for the past couple of tournaments,” said Park, the former UCLA star who won the 200U.S Women’s Amateur. “Everything just came together here this week. I also spent a lot of time on the putting greens, and thankfully, I just had a great day today.”
She three-putted for the bogey on the par-5 17th.
“It was just a dumb mental mistake,” Park said. “I missed. It was like a 3-footer and that pin was a little difficult. It was on a hill. It was a difficult hole and I think it’s probably one of the toughest holes out here.”
Jang also had a bogey-free round.
“I had good putts today. Some awesome putts,” Jang said. “Everything was on line and I had a lot of confidence with putting this week for some reason. I also had some great second shots and tee shots. I played well today.”
She has two LPGA Tour wins, the 2005 Women’s British Open and 2006 Wegmans LPGA.
“It looks like a British course, a links course,” Jang said. “I think I have a chance. … Putting is really important here. Tee shots are also important with all the bunkers, because if you go in them you can’t get out.”