LAS VEGAS, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Birthday girl Michelle Wie had little to celebrate after South Korea's Angela Park and American Paula Creamer set the pace in the World Championship first round in Palm Desert, California.
Stanford University student Wie, on her 18th birthday, plummeted to the bottom of the leaderboard in the elite field of 20 after battling to a seven-over-par 79 at Bighorn Golf Club.
Park and Creamer, however, made the most of near-perfect conditions in the Californian desert by charging one stroke clear with matching 67s.
Title-holder Lorena Ochoa, the Mexican world number one, was a further stroke back in a tie for third spot with South Korea's Kim Mi-hyun and American Morgan Pressel.
Ochoa, bidding for her seventh victory of the year, got to six under after reeling off six birdies in the first 16 holes before slipping back with a double-bogey at the last where she drove into a bush, yesterday.
''It was a good day,'' Ochoa told reporters. ''Seventeen really good holes, a lot of birdie chances and unfortunately I did finish with a double bogey.
''The bad tee shot, I hit it way right and it ended up in a bush, the top of the bush in the branches. So I took an unplayable and ended up with a double bogey.
GOOD POSITION ''There was nothing else I can do and I'm happy that I am in a good position, four under. I feel pretty comfortable with my game and ready to play good tomorrow.'' LPGA rookie of the year Park birdied the last two holes to join Creamer at the top of the leaderboard.
''I hit really good putts out there and I'm striking the ball very well,'' the Korean said after a round featuring seven birdies and two bogeys. ''I feel really comfortable and I just play as I have nothing to lose.'' Wie, playing on a sponsor's invite after a dismal 2007 campaign hampered by a wrist injury and highlighted by just two LPGA cuts in seven starts, described her day as ''really tough''.
She added: ''I just couldn't get anything going. What really was the pinnacle of the day: I hit a really good wedge shot and it hit the pin and came back 30 feet. It was just that kind of day.
''All the putts looked like they were going to go in, but they didn't. I had a couple of stray tee shots, but there's always tomorrow.'' Asked what plans she had for the evening to celebrate her birthday, Wie replied: ''Go home and study. Basically, I have a lot of stuff to do. I have to read a book, so it should be an exciting birthday.'' REUTERS BJR VC1010