The sound of the Oklahoma wind made it feel even stronger, gusts up to 36 mph, and Lorena Ochoa began her quest for a fifth straight LPGA Tour victory with three bogeys through the first five holes.
She never looked overly concerned, not even when she finished the first round of the SemGroup Championship at 2-over 73, only her second round over par in what already has been an extraordinary year.
Optimism came from the day of the week _ Thursday _ and from a glance at the leaderboard when she finished.
Ochoa has won five of six tournaments this year, the only flaw in an otherwise perfect start coming at the MasterCard Championship in her native Mexico, when she opened with a 76 and wound up in a tie for seventh. But that was only a 54-hole tournament, and Ochoa simply ran out of time. The SemGroup Championship expanded to 72 holes this year.
"Three more rounds to go," she said with a smile.
Hee Young Park held on in the blustery conditions for a 2-under 69, one of only four players to break par at Cedar Ridge. Ochoa paused long enough leaving the ninth green to watch the leaderboard scroll down a few pages and show her name.
Even with her worst round in nearly two months, she was only four shots behind.
"I'm OK," she said. "This is just a start. I'm not too far from the leaders."
Even so, two of those four subpar rounds came from her own group. Paula Creamer, coming off a playoff loss last week in Florida, made three crucial putts on her front nine to stay in the game, surged into a share of the lead with consecutive bogeys, then finished with two bogeys that left her bitter, but not for long.
As harsh as the wind was at Cedar Ridge, a 70 was nothing to complain about.
"Going out there, I said if I shot even par I would be in a good spot," she said. "And I finished 1 under."
Defending champion Mi Hyun Kim also was at 70, in an entirely different fashion. Kim has a slight build, and it was a wonder the wind didn't blow her off the course. She poked the ball out there as far as she could, and it was hard for Ochoa and Creamer to fathom that the South Korean managed to break par.
She took 70 shots _ 30 with the putter, 17 with irons, and 23 with metal clubs.
"I tried low ball," Kim said.
Ji Young Oh also had a 70, the only subpar round from the morning batch, when the wind was just as strong.
Ochoa battled it all day, with limited success. She won her first major last summer at St. Andrews in the Women's British Open, and had a good understanding of how to play the wind, how to manufacture various shots. But she said her hands were too quick in her swing, leading to shots that ballooned in the gusts, some sailing into the gallery, over the green, and leading to five bogeys.
"That's never good in a lot of wind," she said. "I'm going to work on that."
Ochoa atoned for those mistakes with a 5-wood from 223 yards to 2 feet for eagle on her 10th hole, the par-5 first, and this was one day she had few complaints about a round over par.
"I managed to finish with a good score," she said.
It ended a streak of 18 subpar rounds, and nine straight rounds in the 60s. But she was only four shots behind.
"Now it's time to catch up," Ochoa said.
Lost in the hoopla of Ochoa trying to join Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam with five straight victories was an even-par 70 by Vicky Hurst, the 17-year-old from Melbourne, Fla., who last week won on the Duramed Futures Tour.
Hurst, who received a sponsor's exemption, made five birdies against five bogeys, with a caddie she hired only Thursday morning, sparing her mother from having to lug around her clubs.
"I'll take that every day," said Hurst, who graduates high school in two weeks.
The group at 1-over 72 included U.S. Women's Open champion Cristie Kerr, despite three bogeys over the final five holes, and seven-time major champion Juli Inkster, the runner-up last year at Cedar Ridge.
Those scores felt much lower on such a blustery day, with flags crackling in the wind before sunrise, relentless throughout the day. The scoring average was 76.8, compared with 73.5 a year ago when 21 players broke par in the first round.
This is the eighth year of the LPGA Tour event in Tulsa, and along with the PGA Championship last year and the 2001 U.S. Open, tournaments have managed to escape the wind so infamous in these parts.
But there was no hiding Thursday, and there is not expected to be much relief the rest of the way.
Twenty-nine players failed to break 80, a list that included Morgan Pressel (80) and Louise Friberg (81), the only other player this year to win a tournament Ochoa entered.
"You can't quit," Creamer said. "You have to be out there, mentally prepared, and be able to hit all kinds of golf shots."
Creamer did just that on the par-3 sixth, with a 7-iron that stopped 6 feet behind the hole for a birdie that momentarily tied her for the lead. She did not recall the yardage, and it really didn't matter. It was a feel shot, and it was that kind of day for everyone.
Creamer finished with consecutive bogeys, a three-putt from 80 feet and a tough chip with her feet in the bunker, and ball at her knees. It was a bitter way to end the round, but she knew it could have been worse.
Ochoa figured it can only get better.
"Being three or four shots out of the lead, you're in good shape," Ochoa said. "This is an up-and-down week, a lot of movement (on the leaderboard). I'm plus 2, and I still have three more rounds to go.