By Larry Fine
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (Reuters) - French veteran Karine Icher held the early first-round lead over an impressive chasing pack at the ANA Inspiration before high winds halted play at the first women's major of the year on Thursday.
With gusts of 45 miles per hour (72 kph) bending palm trees and blowing marked balls off greens and higher winds forecast, officials called an end to play with the afternoon wave of players still on the Mission Hills Country Club course.
Play was scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. PT (1430 GMT) on Friday.
Icher fired a five-under-par 67 for a one-shot lead over American Michelle Wie and South Korean world number three Ryu So-yeon and her compatriots Park Sung-Hyun and amateur Seong Eun-jeong on a calm morning in the California desert.
Another shot back, at three-under, were Korean Jenny Shin and long-hitting American Lexi Thompson as the early starters took advantage before the high winds hit the long layout to challenge the other half of the field.
Defending champion and top-ranked Lydia Ko of New Zealand was two-under through five holes along with American Christina Kim (11 holes), Germany's Caroline Masson (8), England's Charley Hull (7) and Suzann Pettersen of Norway(6).
Icher, 38, was looking to improve on her best previous showing in a major, a tie for sixth at the U.S. Women's Open in 2005.
"I'm probably the player with the most top 10s without winning," said Icher, who has five European Tour wins and 43 top 10s in the United States without a victory.
"I'm going to keep focussed and keep my game on and try to sink some putts, and we'll see from there."
Wie, the 2014 U.S. Women's Open champion, birdied the par-three 17th to join the group on four-under that included the impressive 17-year-old Seong.
Seong rode a blistering start as she birdied the first two holes and reached four-under with a hole-in-one at the 182-yard par-three fifth, where she landed a perfect six-iron.
It was the second career ace for the young Korean, who won a junior event last year at Mission Hills.
"I have good memories of here," said Seong, who made the traditional ANA winner's leap into Poppie's Pond alongside the 18th green after her 2016 junior victory.
Other late starters who were interrupted included world number two Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, last year's ANA runner-up, who was one-over through seven holes, and world number four Chun In-gee of South Korea, even-par after seven.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)