Pettersen leads Ochoa at LPGA Kraft Nabisco

Rancho Mirage: Norway’s Suzann Pettersen, seeking to rebound from a hip injury, fired a five-under 67 to seize a one-shot lead over Lorena Ochoa in the LPGA’s Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Pettersen played without a bogey at Mission Hills to stay in front of former champion Ochoa - who missed birdie putts at her final two holes.

Pettersen showed no sign of the painful hip injury that required a cortisone shot, hitting 12 fairway and 13 greens in regulation.

“It’s quite demanding off the tees, and there’s just certain tee shots you’ve just got to take on,” Pettersen said. “And I think if you can place it off the tee, I think you’re in a very good position. You’ve just got to play what this course gives you. I’ve learned that over the years. And patience, obviously. I would take a bogey-free round any day around this place.”

Asked if the greens or rough looked more difficult this year, she said: “I can’t really answer you about the rough.”

She’s hoping it stays that way as the first women’s major of the year continues.

“You get in there, you’re looking at just hacking it out and hopefully get somewhere around the green or on the green if you’re lucky,” she said. “So it’s quite important to keep the ball in play and give yourself a lot of good looks at the pins.”

Karrie Webb of Australia, Yani Tseng of Taiwan and Karen Stupples of Britain were among a group on 69.

Defending champion Brittany Lincicome drained a birdie putt on 12 to get as low as four-under before bogeys at 13 and 15 saw her finish on 70.

US star Michelle Wie carded a 71.

Pettersen has two top-10 finishes in three starts this year. The hip injury kept her from swinging a club for about three weeks.

“I thought I was going to have two solid weeks of practice. It turned out to be two solid weeks on the couch,” said Pettersen, who won the 2007 LPGA Championship and has three straight top-five finishes here.

Pettersen teed off shortly after 9am, when the weather was still chilly.

“It got really cold as we warmed up,” she said. “I thought I was going to ski, the way I was dressed.”

The day warmed up in the California desert, however, and the wind stayed quiet.

But Pettersen still has plenty of work to do with five major titlists within three shots of her lead.

Mexico’s Ochoa, who teed off three hours after Pettersen, had chances to tie the Norwegian star but rolled a long putt just right of the hole at 17 and then missed a 10-footer at 18.

Ochoa, the 2008 champion, had six birdies and two bogeys.

“It was a good day for sure,” Ochoa said. “It helped me with a good start. I think that’s why I’m happy to have a good start because you never know what’ll happen tomorrow. You could show up here and all of a sudden the wind is 30 mph.”

Ochoa got her round on track with birdies at two and three.

“I think I was putting for birdie on a lot of holes, so I think that will be a key,” she said. “I think tomorrow if I do the same, I should be in good shape.”

Tseng, who won the 2008 LPGA Championship, had a roller-coaster of a round that included five birdies, four bogeys and an eagle.

Bureau Report