Kim Williams is putting her first-round fortunes at the U.S. Women's Open in perspective, and Nancy Lopez is doing the same with her opening-round failure.

Four years after the terrifying night she was struck by a stray bullet, Williams shot a 3-under-par 68 on the Blackwolf Run Golf Course to gain a share of the lead with Laura Davies.Having never won in 12 years on the LPGA tour, Williams' success was as surprising as Lopez's frustration.

But Williams wasn't gloating.

"Who knows how my back will feel tomorrow," she said. "I'm happy just that I was able to play. That was a big concern, that I wasn't going to be able to play."

After all, her back, which she injured in the second tournament of the year, limited her to nine holes of practice in the month leading up to the Open.

And don't forget, Williams shared the opening-round lead at the Open two years ago, only to stumble out of contention with a terrible second round.

"Let's hope I follow it up better this year," Williams said.

Davies hardly expected to be in position to worry about playing through the weekend, figuring she would miss another cut - she's missed five this year - and head home to England early.

Briton Alison Nicholas might be in the market for Davies' ticket to London after beginning defense of her Open title with a 78. Nicholas won last year by a shot over Lopez, who shot a disappointing 77 on Thurs-day.

And it took a birdie on No. 18 - her only one of the day - to keep this from being Lopez's worst Open performance since the third round at Indianapolis in 1978, when she shot an 8-over 79.

"The 18th is always a good hole to birdie," said Lopez, who kept her chin up. "I guess it makes your dinner taste better."

But it had to be a bitter pill to swallow for the four-time runnerup who has never won in 22 Open appearances.

"I think I was more disappointed for the people who were watching," Lopez said. "It didn't bother me. They were all expecting me to do well, and I felt bad for them."

Lopez went into a prolonged funk over her fourth brush with victory last year, but she was philosophical over her disappointment this year, even though she closed the front nine with three straight bogeys.

Two-time Open champion Annika Sorenstam averted a second straight first-round collapse after an early triple-bogey, rallying to finish at even-par 71.

The 14-hour round was punctuated by the surprising play of Williams, who was hurting so bad at the turn that she began wearing a back brace between shots.

Not that she was complaining.

Not after what happened to her in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1994. As she was walking into a drugstore, Williams was struck in the neck by a stray bullet from a holiday reveler firing a gun a half-mile away.

"You gain a perspective going through something like that," Williams said. "When I was laying on that floor bleeding to death, I never thought, `Oh, my God, I never won a U.S. Open,' or `I don't have enough money.'

"Keep your life in balance and be appreciative of the fact that you're even here and able to play in the Open."

Davies didn't expect to be in a share of the lead, either.

After struggling most of the year, the Englishwoman figured it would be more of the same in the Open this week. But her 68 threatened to keep her away from home a while longer.

"The way the year has gone, I am expecting two rounds and be on my way back to London Saturday morning," Davies, the 1987 Open champion, said earlier this week.

Now, she said, "I am hoping I will be playing in all four rounds. I would have to have a really bad day tomorrow. Who knows, the way things have been going?"

A triple-bogey on the par-4, 409-yard fifth hole dropped Sorenstam to 3-over.

"I think I played really good golf - on 17 holes," said Sorenstam, the 1995 and '96 Open winner. "There was just one hole I had trouble on."

Sorenstam recovered on the strength of five birdies, the last on No. 18, a 421-yard, par-4. Davies, her playing partner, also birdied the hole, putting her approach within an inch of the cup.

"It was just a dream finish, really," Davies said. "Honestly, I don't know how the pitch didn't go in."

The opening round was suspended because of darkness with two groups still on the course. Those six golfers had to complete their rounds this morning.

Leslie Spalding, Se Ri Pak and Pat Hurst fired 69s on the Pete Dye-designed layout renowned for greens so fast that men's two-time Open champion Ernie Els suggested the women practice by putting in a bathtub.

The course was indeed demanding but not backbreaking.

Helen Alfredsson of Sweden aced the par-3 eighth hole, becoming the 13th woman to score a hole-in-one in the Open.

"I thought it was a little short," Alfredsson said. "I had a good line. I never saw it. It was just a matter if it was long enough. Everybody went crazy, which was kind of fun."

After 36 holes, the 60 lowest scorers and ties, or anyone within 10 strokes of the lead, will make the cut. The winner will receive $267,500 from the purse of $1.5 million.