Grace Park posted a 6-under-par 66 at the Iron Horse Course at Vanderbilt Legends Course and is alone in second place.
She missed the green short with her 5-wood second shot at the par-5 seventh, but chipped to 3 feet and converted the birdie try. Stanford stumbled to a bogey at the ninth when her 6-iron sailed over the putting surface.
At the 10th, Stanford hit a 9-iron to 4 feet to set up birdie. She collected another birdie at 13 and rattled off back-to-back birdies with a 5-footer at No. 14.
Stanford, who matched her career low round on the LPGA Tour Thursday, was 5 under par for the championship, but closed with style. She knocked a wedge to a foot to set up birdie at the 17th and polished off her 65 with a two-putt birdie from 40 feet at the par-5 18th.
Stanford has struggled this season with two missed cuts, including last week, in seven starts. Her best finish was a tie for 11th place at the Fields Open in Hawaii in February, but swing changes implemented in the fall are starting to work.
'I'm starting to hit it more solid,' said Stanford, who owns only one win on the LPGA Tour. 'It's easier to control on the golf course and you don't get into as much trouble if you miss it. So it's just been the confidence has been building since the first of the year.'
Bader began on the back nine Thursday and promptly made birdie from 3 feet at the 10th. She added another at 12 from close to the same length, then ran home a 6-foot birdie putt at the 15th.
At the 17th, Bader played a beautiful second to 6 feet. She drained that putt to make the turn at 4-under-par 32.
Bader did not play as spectacularly on her second nine, but did convert a 6-foot birdie try at the second. She reached 7 under par thanks to a 10-foot eagle putt at the par-5 seventh.
'I feel good about my swing,' said Bader. 'It's progressively gotten better. It's Thursday, but I definitely put myself in position. It sure helps being 7 under the first day.'
Two of the hottest players in the world, Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Karrie Webb and the tour's leading money winner, Lorena Ochoa, headline a group tied for fourth place at minus-5.
Cristie Kerr, Patricia Meunier-Lebouc, Laura Diaz, Minea Blomqvist and Young Kim joined Webb and Ochoa, who finished in second place last year, in fourth place at 5-under-par 67.
Stacy Prammanasudh, who defeated Ochoa by three in 2005, opened her first LPGA Tour title defense with a 2-under-par 70 and is part of a group tied for 29th place.