RANCHO MIRAGE, California, April 2 (Reuters) - Thirty years after winning the opening women's major of the year for the first time, Juli Inkster surged into contention for the title at the ANA Inspiration on Thursday.
The 54-year-old Hall of Famer, who will captain the United States Solheim Cup team in September, carded a three-under-par 69 in the opening round at Mission Hills Country Club.
Inkster, whose seven major victories include her wins here in 1984 and 1989 when the event was known as the Nabisco Dinah Shore, ended the day two shots behind pacesetting American Morgan Pressel.
"I actually have been hitting the ball fairly well the last couple of weeks, and I've been out with a baulky putter," Inskter told reporters after mixing four birdie with a lone bogey. "But today I made a few putts.
"I'm looking forward to a nice cold beverage and being out here tomorrow morning. I'm kind of glad I can play and come out here tomorrow and do the same thing."
Asked how gratifying it was to be ahead of 'young guns' such as 17-year-old world number one Lydia Ko (71) and 19-year-old Charley Hull (70), Inkster smiled: "Oh, it's great.
"As you know, I enjoy the game and I enjoy working at it. I like the process of it. But these girls are our future. You know, I'm just lucky I can still come out here and compete a little bit."
Inkster, who has piled up 31 wins on the LPGA Tour and more than $13 million in career earnings, felt she was still capable of challenging the younger players in the majors.
"What I like about the majors is you don't have to shoot 20-under or 18-under to win," she said. "If you can come in around par, one, two or three under, come Sunday you'll have a shot. So that's kind of why I like majors." (Editing by Peter Rutherford)