HUTCHINSON, Kan., July 4 (UPI) -- Juli Inkster and Laura Diaz, representing different generations of American golf, both shot a 3-under 67 Thursday and tied Australian Shani Waugh for the lead after one round of the U.S. Women's Open.
Inkster, 42, is a former champion of this event, has won six major titles, will celebrate her 20th year on the circuit next season and is a member of the LPGA Hall of Fame. Diaz, 27, is a rising star who won her first event on the tour this year. Waugh is looking for her first victory in a five-year tour career.
They were among a small group of players able to tame the Prairie Dunes Country Club course, a links-style layout that is ranked among the best in the country but which, because of its remote location, is seldom in the spotlight.
Despite relatively calm conditions, far different from the wind and rain that bothered them during practice rounds, only six players were able to break par Thursday. In addition to the three co-leaders, Michele Saiki shot a 2-under 68 while Lorie Kane of Canada and Catriona Matthew of Scotland were tied for fifth at 1-under 69
Karrie Webb, trying to become the first player to win this tournament three straight years, stumbled to a 79. Starting on the back nine, she bogeyed three of the first six holes.
Webb appeared to have survived that poor start when she made the turn in 2-over 37, but beginning at the second she played a four-hole stretch in 6-over, suffering a triple bogey at the par-3 fourth.
"I really just didn't get into the flow of the course," Webb said. "I felt like I hadn't been on the course, even though I felt like I couldn't be better prepared for the tournament.
"I felt great going into today. I thought I had as good a chance to win this year as I have in the past two, so it's just really out of the blue."
Inkster, who won the U.S. Open in 1999 and lost the tournament in a playoff with Patty Sheehan seven years earlier, birdied four of the first six holes Thursday and missed a chance to take the lead by herself when she bogeyed the 18th.
"I think everybody gets nervous at the Open," Inkster said. "You can't not get nervous. But I think I handled it pretty good.
"The wind wasn't that strong. This might be as easy as it gets for us. I played Monday and the wind was just howling. I played nine holes late Tuesday and nine holes early in the day and the wind was blowing all the time.
"It's always important to have a good first round just to get yourself in the ball game."
Diaz was at even par through 12 holes, but then birdied three out of five.
"There were a lot of nerves going through my body on the front nine," she said. "But you're able to say, 'hey, this is the 4th of July, I'm at the Women's U.S. Open and there got a lot of people out here cheering us on.
"I think I'd be feeling patriotic no matter where I was today. But I think it's nice to have two Americans with two good scores today. It's always an honor to be able to tie one of the best players in golf, Juli Inkster, so I think that this is a great day to say, 'I'm proud to be an American.'
"It is every day."