Some places are just magic, said Kim, who has two career wins and 30 top-10 finishes. For me, this place has been absolutely magical.
Last year Kim birdied 18 to momentarily tie Sherri Steinhauer at 16 under, but the veteran Steinhauer matched Kim on the last hole to win.
Kim made her own magic Thursday with seven birdies, and eagle and no bogeys.
The field was stacked with low scores, including a 67 from Michelle Wie that was her best of the year for the part-time golfer and full-time Stanford student. Wie, playing on a sponsors exemption, and most of the lowest-scoring golfers teed off early in the morning, before temperatures neared 90 degrees.
South Korean Sun Young Yoo, one of the few golfers to tee off at midday and keep her score down, finished a stroke behind Kim at 64 after shooting an 8-under 28 over the first nine holes.
She sank short putts for six birdies and added an eagle on the par-5 16th hole. The 28 ties her with seven other players for the best nine-hole score in LPGA history.
But Yoos back nine included a pair of bogeys and, she said, fatigue and a loss of concentration.
I think I lost a little focus on putting, said Yoo, who played in the worst of the heat. I think I was a little bit tired.
Kristy McPherson and Jee Young Lee shot 65s and were tied for third.
Wie made eagle on the 15th hole and led for a time.
But the 18-year-old missed a handful of putts by inches, and had to fight back from a pair of mid-round bogies, one of which included a shot into a water hazard and the other punctuated by a shot into a tree.
Her stop at the 18th hole summed up what might have been. After her near-perfect second shot dropped and died just a few feet beyond the cup, her putt rolled around the lip and refused to drop. Birdie became par and Wie fell back from the top of the pack.
I think its a definite, telling sign that I can shoot a lot better, Wie said. Today could have easily been eight, nine, 10 under.
German tour rookie Anja Monke briefly claimed a share of the lead with a 66.
The 31-year-old, a regular on the Ladies European Tour who had never played in the United States before Thursday, said that any other day shed rather sleep in than tee off just before 7:30 a.m.
Its tough for me; I like to sleep in, she joked. This morning, 4:40, the night was over. But its OK.
Monke ended the first round tied for fifth.
Audra Burks, who had her best round since surgery last year to repair a pair of ruptured discs in her lower back, was also at 66.
They both ruptured over my spinal cord, caused some compression, she said. I was out most of the end of last year.
Steinhauer shot a 3-over 75.