Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Capital Hill, Senator Course
September 16, 2011
Second-round notes and interviews
Sixteen-year-old Lexi Thompson will take a two-stroke lead into the third round of play at the Navistar LPGA Classic outside Montgomery, Ala. Thompson sits at 10-under-par after shooting a 68 in Friday's second round and she'll be paired in the final group on Saturday with Rolex Rankings No. 11 Stacy Lewis and Wales native Becky Morgan.
Thompson followed up her first-round 66 with another impressive round, tallying five birdies and one bogey on Friday. It's the second time that Thompson has held the lead after two rounds at the Navistar LPGA Classic, as she also did it back in 2009.
This week marks Thompson's eighth start on the LPGA this season. Her best finish in those starts this season was a T19 at the Avnet LPGA Classic in Mobile, Ala., which is also played on one of the courses on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. She entered the final round of the Avnet LPGA Classic this year holding sole possession of the lead but went on to shoot a 78 on Sunday.
"I'm going to try to forget about Avnet, what I did the last day," Thompson said. "I'm just going to try to go into the weekend and play like I did the last two days: just relax and calm and just swing freely."
Thompson is having a good summer, which included her winning the first stage of LPGA Q School by 10 shots back in July. Now she'll try to see if she can improve upon her career-best finish, which was a tie for second at the 2010 Evian Masters. This will be the third time in Thompson's career that she's been paired in the final group on the LPGA Tour. And helping with Thompson's comfort level is the fact that she is familiar with her playing partners, having even been paired with Lewis for a few rounds during the Ladies European Tour's Irish Women's Open this summer.
"They're great players so I'm looking forward to it," Thompson said. "Just going to try to play consistently like I did the last few days."
Finding that consistency: Stacy Lewis is tied for second with Becky Morgan at 8-under-par after shooting her second straight round of 68 on Friday. But finding herself near the top of the leaderboard is nothing new for Lewis this season.
Since becoming a Rolex First-Time Winner at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in early April, Lewis has tallied six top-8 finishes. Four of those top-8 finishes have come in Lewis' last five tournaments and twice during that stretch she recorded a runner-up finish (Evian Masters and the CN Canadian Women's Open). Prior to her win at Kraft, Lewis had recorded a total of 10 top-10 finishes in her career since 2007.
"My friends are like, I'm not going to tell you good playing anymore. We're tired of hearing it," Lewis said with a laugh. "But it's so nice to be there [near the top of the leaderboard]. It's getting comfortable there, and I think the more I'm there the more comfortable I'm going to be, especially coming down the stretch on Sunday."
Could this be the time? Ten-year LPGA Tour veteran Becky Morgan could be on the cusp of earning her first LPGA Tour victory after rounds of 67-69 have her two-strokes behind leader Lexi Thompson heading into the weekend.
Morgan who has played on both the Ladies European Tour (LET) and LPGA has struggled this season missing six out of 12 cuts including last week's NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G. The Welsh earned her best finish this year at the CN Canadian Women's Open after she finished tied for 16th.
"I didn't play well last week and then played well in Canada, so my finish in Canada was good for me," said Morgan. I didn't have a great Sunday, the conditions were tough, but I played really well for three days there, so it kind of boosted my confidence."
Boost her confidence indeed, Morgan's first-round five-under par 67's ties the best round of the season which included seven birdies and two bogeys. While Morgan is pleased with her solid start this week, she knows there is still room for improvement this weekend.
"I actually left a few out there today," said Morgan. "I'm not complaining, but I probably putted better yesterday."
Staying on for the weekend: A total of 74 players made the cut which fell at 2-over-par 146
Putting Woes…For just the fifth time since 2006 U.S. Solheim Cup team member Cristie Kerr will not be around for the weekend. The 14 time LPGA Tour winner fired rounds of 73-74 to end the two days at 3-over par and miss the cut which landed at 2-over par. From 2008-2010, Kerr failed to miss a cut and earned 40 top-10 finishes including four victories.
Kerr, who is known for her lights out putting, averaged an uncharacteristic 33 putts during this week's first two rounds. Kerr currently leads the Tour in putts per green in regulation and tenth in putting average at 28.93.
Birdies for a cause: This year's Navistar LPGA Classic Presented by Monaco RV is going above and beyond to help raise funds for this year's beneficiary, the Wounded Warrior Project. The 152-yard par-3 16th has been designated as the "military hole". Navistar will donate $100 for every birdie made during this year's tournament to the Wounded Warrior Project. Over the past four years, the hole has averaged 83 birdies. In addition, a member of the military will be on the green to tend the flag during tournament play.
During Friday's second round the 16th hole notched 45 birdies which raised $4,500 for the Wounded Warrior Project. In total, 60 birdies have been made on the hole over the first two rounds equaling a donation of $6,000.
Of Note…Defending champion Katherine Hull shot 70 for the second straight day and is tied for 11th at 4-under-par. Hull had missed four straight cuts leading into this week's event…Meena Lee shot the low round of the tournament so far with a career-best 8-under 64 in Friday's second round. Lee is tied for fourth at 7-under-par….17-year-old amateur and Huntsville, Ala. native Janie Jackson, who earned a spot in the field during Monday's qualifier, shot a 5-under 67 to finish at 1-over-par and make the cut. Jackson is a senior in high school and will be attending the University of Arizona next year.
LEXI THOMPSON, Rolex Rankings No. 124
Q. We've talked a lot after these rounds, but what is it about these courses on the Robert Trent Jones Trail that seem to work so well for you and your game?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well they're set up a little bit longer, but they're in fantastic shape for us. I was the first one to hit out here and there were no divots or ball marks. They're in great shape for us. I'm looking forward to playing more.
Q. After finding yourself at the top of the leaderboard yesterday, coming into today what were your expectations and what were you trying to focus on?
LEXI THOMPSON: I was just trying to focus on playing consistent. One shot at a time, focusing on hitting that one good. I'm playing smart and just making birdies. Just trying to do my best; that's all I can do.
Q. You had experience at Avnet earlier in the year being in the lead and playing in the final groups on Saturday and Sunday. What are you going to take into tomorrow from that experience? What have you learned over many tournaments how to kind of prepare yourself for that?
LEXI THOMPSON: I'm going to try to forget about Avnet, what I did the last day. I'm just going to try to go into the weekend and play like I did the two days: just relax and calm and just free swing.
Q. Was it tough at Avnet?
LEXI THOMPSON: At Avnet?
Q. However you say it.
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, obviously it was. Wasn't even that nervous actually teeing off. I don't know what happened. Just got a little quick on everything. It happens; it's golf. You just got to take those rounds and put 'em behind you.
Q. Back in '09, '08, whatever, two years ago after your lead after two rounds, what are about that round after that, how tough that was?
LEXI THOMPSON: I actually don't remember. I remember teeing off like in the last few groups or like the last one, but I don't remember really like how I played. don't know. I just love playing here. This golf course is amazing.
Q. Is that a good thing, to be able forget like that?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I mean, obviously it is just to forget those kind of tournaments or rounds or shots.
Q. How do you think you're a little bit different player now from two years ago when we started seeing you out here with regularity?
LEXI THOMPSON: Probably just the way I play. I'm playing a lot more smart and not going for every shot. You know, more like the stupid shots, like going for the green over the water or taking the club that's going to be short. You just have to play smart out here and, you know, make bogey or a worse score and just go for it.
Q. Have you played where are Stacy or Becky Morgan who you'll be paired with tomorrow?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I actually played with Stacy in the Irish Open the first few days. Or maybe three days. I'm not sure. I've played with her a few times.
Q. Was that the first time?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, yeah. And Becky, I've played with her. I'm not sure if it was practice rounds or not, but I've definitely played with her.
Q. Good, comfortable pairing for you tomorrow?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, they're great players so I'm looking forward to it. Just going to try to play consistently like I did the last few days.
Q. What's it like having an amateur here that's one year older than you?
LEXI THOMPSON: Janie? She's awesome. I've talked to her quite a bit. We texted each other quite a bit last year. She's an amazing player and I she's going to Arizona. So, I mean, that's great for her. I heard she's a long hitter and she shot 5‑under today.
Q. She made the cut.
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I know. I told her that last night. I'm like, Just go and shoot a 66 tomorrow and you'll be good. Look what she did, so it's an amazing thing.
STACY LEWIS, Rolex Rankings No. 11
Q. Congratulations. Great round out there today. Just talk about the round a little bit and the differences in scoring conditions this morning compared to yesterday.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, it played so much easier today. It was almost kind of you get frustrated when you weren't making birdies.But middle of the round I was kind of struggling with my swing just trying to get things going, and I just really hung in there and hit a couple good shots at the end and made some birdies coming in.
Q. You find yourself at the top of leaderboard once again. How nice of a feeling is it to be doing this consistently?
STACY LEWIS: It's awesome. I mean, my friends are like, I'm not going to tell you good playing anymore. We're tired of hearing it. But it's so nice to be there. It's getting comfortable there, and I think the more I'm there the more comfortable I'm going to be, especially coming down the stretch on Sunday.
Q. Talked to a lot of the players about the greens out here and the difference. How nice is it to be able to putt on greens like this?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, right now they're running so fast and so good. I was kind of worrying coming new year on new greens, but they're awesome. They're really good. It's nice to putt on some challenging greens every once in a while.
Q. This week is leading up to the Solheim Cup. To be playing well leading into that event, is this kind of what you had hoped for?
STACY LEWIS: Yes. I wanted to play well lat week in Arkansas; Solheim was kind of next, and then this week. So I was kind of just doing some things with my swing to get ready for next week. I've been playing well the last month or so, so I knew I was playing well. Just kind of needed to go with it.
Q. Minus 4, minus 4 in your two rounds, it doesn't get more consistent than that. Any secret to that?
STACY LEWIS: No, it's just hanging in there. Today I chipped in for birdie and made a bomb on 10, so kind of have to get some good things to go your way. I just hung in there.
Q. How does the weekend look?
STACY LEWIS: I like my spot. Hopefully I'm up near the lead and not too far away. Should be good.
BECKY MORGAN, Rolex Rankings No. 124
Q. Great day yesterday where you felt like you were able to kick it in after a while; today a bogey to start, but then you made a lot of birdies kind of coming in.
BECKY MORGAN: Yeah, it was kind of a similar start today. Just hit a couple not‑great shots early on, and then actually I got up and down the first two and the three‑putted my third hole. Sort of came back a couple holes later and made a birdie, and then started hitting it well again. Made some good putts. I actually left a few out there today. I'm not complaining, but I probably putted better yesterday. I still putted well today.
Q. Must be happy over the first two days with the way you're playing. Like you said, putting well yesterday and maybe not making as many putts, but still being able to put together a solid round?
BECKY MORGAN: Yes, I mean, this is historically not one of my favorite golf courses, but I can plot my way around it. I think it favors longer hitters who can take it over corners and stuff. I've made my way around and made some good putts and left myself in some good places and used the slopes on the greens when I needed to to get it close.
Q. Considering it is a long‑hitters course, are you a little bit surprised to find yourself up at there at the top of the leaderboard?
BECKY MORGAN: Honestly, I think anyone who is putting it well and hitting it however far you can hit it can shoot low numbers. I mean, I know that if I hit it 40 yards further it would be a lot easier. But I've left myself some, you know, in the fairway and just kind of used the slopes to get close to the pins. If I can't get close to it, I just kind of take my medicine and hit it to the middle and two‑putt and go to the next.
Q. We had talked a lot about the wind yesterday. How much better were the conditions this morning?
BECKY MORGAN: Oh, you couldn't get a more perfect day than today. I would imagine the scores will get pretty low. I mean, it's like mid‑70s and no wind, so it's perfect.
Q. How does it feel being the leader right now?
BECKY MORGAN: Yeah, good. I mean, I didn't play particularly well ‑‑ I've been streaky this year. I didn't play well last week and then played well in Canada, so my finish in Canada was good for me. I didn't have a great Sunday, the conditions were tough, but I played really well for three days there, so it kind of boosted my confidence. I'm happy where I am. I am pretty sure I won't be leading at the end of the day, but it's nice to be there right now.
Q. You never know. And position tomorrow look good, too? How does it look for the rest of the tournament, your position at ‑8?
BECKY MORGAN: Yeah, it's great. You know, if someone handed me ‑8 after two rounds I would have take it. Just trying to play well this week to get into the Japanese tournament. I'm not going to just take each shot as it comes, but that is kind of obviously my goal and stuff, and get into the titleholders, because I'm not in that right now. Just hopefully more of the same this weekend.
HEE KYUNG SEO, Rolex Rankings No. 26
HEE KYUNG SEO: I had a few great shots. The putting was great today, so I was just trying to concentrate on the target. That makes the result, and I'm very happy of that.
Q. You shot a 71 yesterday and a 67 today. What was the difference, if any?
HEE KYUNG SEO: Yesterday I had too many bogeys. Obviously it was a little windy, but this morning it was calm and I could make my own swing. Yeah, that gave me good result.
Q. You tore it up on the first nine, four birdies. Anything special, or just everything fell right?
HEE KYUNG SEO: Well, I could be more confident today, so that makes good result. I don't know.
Q. How does it look for the weekend? You're only two down from the lead. The leader is at ‑8; you're at ‑6.
HEE KYUNG SEO: Oh, yeah? Well, there is two more rounds left, so I'll just do my best and I'll keep trying to focus on the target. We will see.
Q. Will this help your chances for rookie of the year?
HEE KYUNG SEO: Hopefully, yeah, but there is many events in end of the year. So, yeah, I will try my best.
JENNIFER JOHNSON, Rolex Rankings No. 209
Q. As we see so often in golf, it's very hard to follow up a spectacular round with another one. Congratulations on the 65 yesterday. What were the big differences between yesterday and today's rounds?
JENNIFER JOHNSON: Well definitely my putting. I putted pretty bad today. But having 26 putts yesterday, it's hard to follow that up. I had such a good ball‑striking round yesterday. You know, same thing. But I didn't hit it that bad today.
Q. You were sponsored by Navistar and you've committed to giving back half of your earnings this week to the Wounded Warrior Project. You played with Dan Nevins who we just interviewed in the pro‑am. It sounds like things are lining up to perhaps be a magical week for you.
JENNIFER JOHNSON: Yeah, I hope I can play well on the weekend and just give as much as I can to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Q. How does Dan inspire you?
JENNIFER JOHNSON: I told my mom about my round with him, and she's like, If he can play golf with no legs, I think you can play golf with two legs. I think every Wounded Warrior just puts everything in perspective. We got it so good out here. I think that's helped me so far this week.
Q. Makes it easier to handle those three‑footers for par.
JENNIFER JOHNSON: Yeah.
Q. Talk your year so far and the adjustment in your first year on the LPGA Tour?
JENNIFER JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, every day, every tournament is just a learning experience. Being at the top of leaderboard, that's new for me. Just hopefully I can end the year with a couple more on the top of the leaderboard.
Q. Just take me through your round a little bit today. I know you were talking about your putting kind of wasn't there.
JENNIFER JOHNSON: Yeah.
Q. How otherwise did you feel about your game today?
JENNIFER JOHNSON: You know, in the beginning I had couple like (indiscernible.) I just didn't leave myself sure enough putts. I had two three‑putts back to back on 14 and 15, so, I mean, that doesn't leave a very good taste in your mouth.
And then I just had ‑‑ you know, the birdie on 17 was nice. Then just on my back nine, the front nine, just some short birdie putts I didn't make. I was hitting some close approach shots, but if only they can drop, you know.
Q. Still, to find yourself near the top of the leaderboard heading into the weekend, how good a feeling is that?
JENNIFER JOHNSON: It's great to be in contention. It's where you want to be, at the top. Just keep moving up.
Q. I know you've got a lot of attention for pledging half of your earnings. Did you hear anything from anybody last night after such a great round? I know seeing all the Wounded Warriors watching you, that meant a lot.
JENNIFER JOHNSON: Yeah, I got some texts and phone calls, and then having Dan at sidelines, you know, some Navistar folks, it's nice having that support.
Q. Anything that you're going to try to focus on this weekend?
JENNIFER JOHNSON: Well, I'm going to definitely go work on my putting. Just try and get the speed better.
Q. How were the conditions today?
JENNIFER JOHNSON: Oh, they're pretty scorable conditions. You don't have to deal with any wind. Some of the pins I thought were pretty accessible. I just didn't take advantage of 'em. (Laughing.)
Q. Any changes in the next two days?
JENNIFER JOHNSON: Just get my putting a little better.