Lorena Ochoa Leads Michelob ULTRA Open but Others Lurk

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Lorena Ochoa Leads Michelob ULTRA Open but Others Lurk
(Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

The Players Championship is not the only "fifth" major being played this weekend.

The Michelob ULTRA Open at Kingsmill in Williamsburg, Va., started play today.

The Michelob not only offers one of the biggest purses on tour for the LPGA ($2.2 million), it also bolsters one of the most impressive past champions lists around.

Since the inception of the Open in 2003, every single winner at Kingsmill has been a major victory to their name.  Last year, it was the legendary Swede Annika Sorenstam who picked up the win to cap off her retirement tour.

While Sorenstam will not be around this year to defend her title, her heir apparent looks to continue the strong tradition of champions at Kingsmill. The world's No. 1 golfer, Lorena Ochoa, stands atop the leader-board after a 7 under round of 64 gives her a one shot lead over Australia's Lindsey Wright.

Ochoa was able to use her distance off the tee and a hot putter to overwhelm the wet course on Thursday, taking just 23 putts en route to eight birdies.

Ochoa's lone blemish came late in her round on the 16th before she rattled off two straight birdies to end her round on a high note.

With 15 players within four shots of the lead, including past champions Cristie Kerr and Suzann Pettersen, the tournament appears destined for some exciting action the rest of this week. 

However, one story that I came away with is that two potential superstars, one known and one not nearly as well known, should be even closer to the lead.

One of the marquee pairings of Michelle Wie, Vicky Hurst and Brittany Lincicome took their legion of fans on quite the roller coaster today.

Teeing off of the 10th, things did not start well for the latest major winner. 

Kraft Nabisco winner Lincicome bogeyed four of his first seven holes and the reason was clear; missed putts.

Lincicome ended her day with 33 putts, one of the worst totals for the round. 

Her partners on the other hand were off to a hot start, Wie opened up with two birdies and appeared to be off to a stellar opening round before bogeying the par 4 12th.

That was the story for Michelle Wie, she simply could not stand her own prosperity.

Every time it appeared she was about to make a run, she was unable to maintain it.

Perhaps the best example came after making a birdie on the par 5 3rd, Wie hit a great iron in to the fourth green and lipped out a 12-foot putt which would have led to back-to-back birdies and put her just one shot off the pace at the time.

Wie struggled coming in, bogeying the sixth and then hitting her second shot in trouble on the par 5 7th, insuring a par instead of a birdie.

On 8, Wie hit a great recovery shot about 25 yards out to secure a par but that momentum faded after a bogey on the final hole.

For Wie it was a solid start, but one that could have been far better.

If the Big "Wie-zy" is going to get her first LPGA career win, she will have to keep the ball in the fairway this week. 

The extremely wet conditions have made the rough nearly unplayable and although Wie's putting appears to be improving (26 today), she needs those mid-range putts to be for birdie not for par.

Vicky Hurst may have been the forgotten player in this threesome, but she was probably the most impressive.

Hurst may not be a household name yet, but this young lady is making a strong case that we will be talking about her for a long time to come.

This is my first time watching Hurst live, and her game is special.

Hurst is the complete package, especially off the tee.

Hurst is third in driving distance on tour this year, more than enough to keep up with the likes of Wie and Lincicome.

It's rare to see Wie outdriven and yet Hurst was bombing it past both of these girls with impressive finesse.

Not to mention that Hurst also found more fairways than both of these ladies and reached an impressive 15 greens in regulation.

Hurst gave herself ample birdie opportunities, which temporarily gave her the lead at 4 under before she too suffered from putting woes late in her round.

Despite the rain and wind early in the day, this threesome appeared to play worse when the weather improved.

Nevertheless, Hurst continues to be a dangerous force lurking on the leader-board at 2 under, tied for 16th.

Despite being an LPGA rookie, Hurst won five times last year on the Duramed Futures Tour, the developmental tour for the LPGA.

Hurst was not only the Duramed Player of the Year but also the Rookie of the Year.

Talk about a meteoric rise.

She knows how to win, something that cannot be taught by an instructor or a parent, it has to be experienced.

Well that experience continues to grow for the potential phenom.

Hurst just notched up her first career top ten on the LPGA at the Corona Championship, will another alcoholic-related tournament bring even more success to the young rookie?

Guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens tomorrow.

One thing is for sure though, if Hurst doesn't win the tournament, she has certainly won some fans.

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