GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. - The wind usually is the best defense at the Bay Course of the Seaview Resort, which has been susceptible to low scores carded by the top players on the women's tour over the years at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

With gusts around 20 miles an hour out of the northwest, the wind was doing its part Friday to befuddle the 75 players who teed off in the morning half of the draw. Strangely, however, most of the afternoon portion of the field seemed to have the wind pretty much figured out by the time they teed off.

Jiyai Shin made the adjustment better than anyone, firing a 5-under-par 66 to take a 1-stroke lead over Sandra Gal after the opening round of the 54-hole tournament.

"I was a little worried about the wind because when I came for practice, it was so windy," said the 23-year-old Shin, currently third in the world golf rankings. "So I'm guessing, oh, today my goal is maybe even or just 1-under par. And when I was putting, the wind took the ball a long way."

The wind appeared especially nasty for the morning starters, only four of whom bested par. In the afternoon, however, nine players were under par, including the top three - Shin; Gal; and Scotland's Catriona Matthew, who carded a 68.

Still, the total of 13 subpar scores paled in comparison to last year's opening round, when 60 players finished better than 71.

"That's probably the toughest it's played in all the years I've played here," said Cristie Kerr, whose 69 tied Lindsay Wright for the best score in the morning half. "This course is playing much harder than it has in years past."

The wind combined with deep fescue, much of which is newly planted since last year, and firm greens. Kerr said the greens were "really bouncy;" indeed, the grounds crew syringed a few greens around mid-day to keep them from getting overly firm.

The fescue was a problem for players who couldn't keep it on line, and contributed to the fact that rounds were taking close to 51/2 hours to complete.

Yet the elements didn't seem to affect Shin, of South Korea. She said her round was kick-started by a curling, 30-foot birdie putt at the tough second hole. She added five more birdies against a single bogey.

"I've been practicing my putting a lot this week," she said. "Today my putting was great. I didn't miss any fairways."

Gal, 26, who made a birdie on the final hole to defeat Shin and win her first career LPGA event last March at the Kia Classic, also did not allow the wind to affect her focus. Playing in the same group with Shin, she matched her almost birdie for birdie.

"At the Pro-Am [Thursday], we had the same strength of wind," said Gal, who is from Germany and graduated from the University of Florida. "So I kind of knew what we were going to get in the afternoon."

Matthew, 41, in her 17th LPGA season, found herself somewhat at home with the conditions, as her four birdies would attest.

"This week it's been exceptionally windy here," she said. "I've not known it as windy as this in the past. The course has a slightly linksy look to it, so, yeah, it does make you kind of feel [like conditions at the British Open] a little bit."

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.