Beatriz Recari, Ryann O'Toole and Giulia Sergas each posted matching rounds of three-under 69 Thursday to share the opening-round lead of the LPGA Championship, the second major of the LPGA Tour season.
The trio is a young, majorless group with only one LPGA Tour win among them and just one top 10 this year. They have some serious competition directly behind them at Locust Hill Country Club.
Three-time champion Se Ri Pak, world No. 2 Na Yeon Choi, former U.S. Women's Open winner Paula Creamer, world No. 4 Ai Miyazato and Cristie Kerr, who won this event by an eye-opening 12 shots two years ago, headline a group tied for fourth at two-under 70.
It was an uncharacteristically poor day for the world No. 1 and defending champion.
Yani Tseng, already a three-time winner this season on the LPGA Tour, struggled to a four-over 76.
"If you can't hit it in the fairway on this course, it's kind of tough to hit a low score," said Tseng, who won by 10 last year en route to becoming the youngest player, female or male, to have four career major titles. "I know I played 19-under last year, so I know I can shoot a low score here. I will see tomorrow."
Teen sensation Lexi Thompson shot a two-over 74 and former teen sensation, Michelle Wie also posted a 74. Wie has missed four of her last five cuts and hasn't finished better than 33rd in seven starts this season.
Cheyenne Woods, the niece of Tiger Woods, had a decent professional debut on Thursday. She shot a three-over 75.
"I was pretty happy overall." said Woods, who said her famous uncle texted her this morning. "I'm just excited in taking everything in and using it as experience for my future career."
Recari, the only tour winner of the leaders, was the first in the clubhouse with the lead. She played in the morning and started on the 10th tee. She bogeyed the par-five 11th, but, after three straight pars, rattled off three consecutive birdies to make the turn at two-under.
The Spaniard parred her first six on the second nine, then birdied the par- three seventh. Recari parred her last two to get in at 69.
"It definitely feels great," said Recari. "It feels almost relieving because I have been playing really well for a long time. I had a great feeling on the greens which wasn't happening lately, and I was just seeing the line, putting a good stroke and most of them dropped in."
O'Toole, who was a captain's pick for last year's U.S. Solheim Cup team, also started on 10, but she was in Thursday's final group. She tallied two birdies in her first four holes, including a 90-footer at 13, and added one at No. 18 for a three-under 34.
O'Toole, who posted a top 10 at last year's U.S. Women's Open, bogeyed the first, but immediately atoned for the error with a birdie at No. 2. She parred her final seven to hang on to a share of the lead.
"I like hard courses. To me, I don't know, I focus a little more," said O'Toole. "I just feel like it's one day. I've learned so many times over and over again, take it as it comes."
Sergas also played in Thursday's final threesome, although she teed off on No. 1. Like O'Toole, she birdied two of her first four, parred out on the front, then had a bumpy back nine.
The Italian was two-over after her first five holes on the second nine, thanks to three bogeys and a birdie. She finished with a flurry, birdieing three of her last four, including the 18th.
"If you make putts, and if you feel comfortable with your putter, then suddenly you see your score going really low," said Sergas. "So that was the key of course."
Jeong Jang and Mika Miyazato joined the heralded group in fourth.
Suzann Pettersen, the 2007 winner, is part of a logjam in 11th at one-under 71.
Stacy Lewis, who won last week's ShopRite LPGA Classic and is the highest- ranked American at No. 3, had an even-par 72 on Friday.
NOTES: Recari's win came in 2010...O'Toole was a cast member on Golf Channel's "The Big Break Sandals Resort"...Recari's last top 10 on the LPGA Tour came at the 2008 U.S. Women's Open...Sun Young Yoo, who won this season's first major at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, shot an even-par 72.