Inkster, whose last major title was the 2002 Womens U.S. Open, is a stroke ahead of seven players ' Ji-Yai Shin, Ji Young Oh, Yuri Fudoh, Momoko Ueda, Jo Head, Laura Diaz and Stacy Prammanasudh. Defending champion Lorena Ochoa was three strokes behind.
Inksters opening round gives her a realistic hope of becoming the oldest winner of a major and the second player to complete a career Super Slam.
Thats the Kraft Nabisco, LPGA Championship, U.S. Open, British Open and the now defunct du Maurier, a combination only Karrie Webb has completed. Not even Sorenstam can do that because she missed out on the du Maurier.
A victory in Sunningdale also would mean that Inkster would have gone a womens record 24 years between her first major ' the 1984 Kraft Nabisco and du Maurier ' and her last. Jack Nicklaus went 24 years between his first and last majors ' the 1962 U.S. Open and 1986 Masters.
While Sorenstams decade of domination has brought 10 majors and 72 tournament victories, the product of a fiercely competitive nature and ability to grind out results, Inkster said her own longevity reflects something else.
I always thought I would play about five years and have a couple of kids and retire, said Inkster, a mother of two teenagers. Im kind of unique. I really love the game and I go out and play for fun. I think (with) Annika its a lot of hard work. Every time she tees it up shes expected to win. Her work ethic is just grind, grind, work out, hit balls.
I dont think Annika could come out here and finish 15th on the money list and live with herself. Me, Im OK with that. I enjoy what I do. I love playing golf but its not the end of the world for me.
Inkster acknowledged she was getting close to retirement.
I play 16 to 18 tournaments a year and get the rest off, she said. And I like what I do so I just play. Im not sure that Im going to play next year but I have plans to finish out this year and then Im going to re-evaluate and see. But Im getting close.
Prammanasudh twice was tied with Inkster at 7 under but each time she drew even she followed with bogeys at Nos. 15 and 17.
At one stage, Sorenstam was 3 over after bogeys at three of the first six holes. She finally birdied the ninth, picked up more shots after the turn, but is still seven strokes behind the leader.
I was looking forward to a wonderful day, but Ive never made as many bogeys as I have the last three months and its driving me crazy, Sorenstam said. I dont know what to do. Its so disappointing that I cant post something low. It seems like I cant play 18 holes.
Ochoa birdied the first two holes and was 5 under after 15. But two bogeys toward the end of her round left her at 69.
On the 17th tee, I got really mad, a bad drive off the tee and I didnt hit a good chip, said Ochoa, whose triumph at St. Andrews a year ago was her first major. But the rest, I have no complaints. I think the first day Im not worried.