Defending champion Juli Inkster and LPGA Tour veteran Donna Andrews share second place after opening rounds of 2-under 69.
The talk surrounding this week's U.S. Women's Open at the Witch Hollow Course at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club was the youth movement. There are 14 teenagers in the field and the top star is 13-year-old Michelle Wie. She opened with a 2-over 73 and is part of a large group in 32nd place.
'I guess golf is getting younger and younger,' said Wie, who will compete in events on both the Nationwide and Canadian Tours this season. 'People have good days and bad days, and some people have good weeks, and I guess it's our week right now.'
On Thursday, Wie was upstaged by a different pair of youngsters. Aree Song, a 17-year-old amateur from Thailand, and Morgan Pressel, a 15-year-old who was the youngest competitor in U.S. Open history when she competed at the age of 12, shot matching rounds of 1-under 70 and are tied for fourth with Angela Stanford, Giulia Sergas and Rosie Jones, widely considered the best player without a major title.
'I think my time will come. I'm just glad to know I qualified for this championship, really. It's such a great tournament and so much fun playing out here,' said Song, who played in the final group of the Nabisco Championship in 2000. 'So I was really excited when I qualified. I'm going to go to college in the fall. So I'll just take my time.'
Annika Sorenstam, the top player in the game and a two-time former winner, shot a 1-over 72 on Thursday and is tied for 22nd.
'There's some tough holes out there, some tough pin placements,' said Sorenstam. 'To make birdies here you've got to putt well. It's tough to hit the ball close to the pins. So I figure people are rolling in some putts.'
McKay opened with a 15-foot birdie putt at the first hole but dropped a stroke to par at the sixth. Two holes later, McKay knocked a 7-iron to 12 feet and sank the putt to make the turn at 1-under par.
McKay parred the 10th and that would be her last par of the round. At the 11th, she hit a sand-wedge to set up a 12-foot birdie putt and cashed in from three feet for birdie at No. 12.
She may have missed the green slightly at 13 but that didn't matter with the way she was rolling the ball. McKay converted on a 20-footer at the 13th and drained a four-footer for birdie at the next hole. She polished off five birdies in a row with a 15-footer at No. 15.
'I think somewhere in the back of my mind it kind of registered I made five in a row,' said McKay, who represented Europe in last year's Solheim Cup. 'But I was just thinking on making good swings, just the things that I've been working with my coach.'
McKay stumbled a bit on the way to the first-round lead. She missed the fairway at the 16th and walked off with bogey and missed the green at 17 and left that hole with another bogey.
McKay, who finished sixth at this event last year, missed the green with her second at the par-5 closing hole. She chipped short of the flag and watched her ball stop a foot from the cup for the kick-in birdie.
'I wanted to finish strong, so 18 left a nice taste in my mouth after a couple of bogeys,' said McKay. 'I've been working really hard on the swing. I was definitely trying to give myself par opportunities, and I just happened to hole in a few putts along the way.'
Inkster made the turn at even-par after starting on the second nine Thursday. She birdied Nos. 4 and 6 but gave one back at the seventh. Inkster, who also won this title in 1999, birdied the ninth to reach 2-under par.
'I just tried to make some birdies when I could and I tried to play to the safe side of the green,' said the Hall of Famer. 'I just kept trying to stay patient and try to hit the shots when I needed to hit them. I came out okay today.'
Andrews completed nine at 1-over par but played brilliantly on her second nine, the front side at the Witch Hollow Course. She tallied three birdies in a four-hole span, starting at the fourth, to match Inkster in second place.
'I really did not hit the ball that well and didn't feel very comfortable about the way I drove it today. But I hit every fairway, so I can't complain,' said Andrews, whose best finish in the U.S. Women's Open is a tie for second in 1993. 'That's how you play good at Opens.'
Another amateur, Irene Cho, shot an even-par 71 and is tied for ninth place. Joining Cho were Michele Redman, Rachel Teske, Lorena Ochoa, Ashli Bunch, Kirsty Taylor, Jamie Hullett, Stephanie Louden, Laura Diaz, Karen Stupples, Hilary Lunke, Paula Marti and Annette DeLuca.
Se Ri Pak and Karrie Webb, a pair of former champions, struggled on Thursday. Pak shot a 6-over 77 while Webb was a shot worse at plus-7.