Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Capitol Hill, Senator Course
September 17, 2011
Third-round notes and interviews
16-year-old Lexi Thompson will take a five-stroke lead into the final round of play at the Navistar LPGA Classic on Sunday outside of Montgomery, Ala. Thompson shot a 5-under 67 during Saturday's third round and currently sits at 15-under-par for the tournament. She leads Rolex Rankings No. 58 Meena Lee, who sits at 10-under-par, heading into the final round of the 72-hole event at the RTJ Trail Capitol Hill's Senator Course.
Thompson got off to a hot start in her round on Saturday, recording four straight birdies on holes No. 6-9 en route to shooting a 31 on the front nine. Thompson didn't miss a green on Saturday until the 10th hole and over the course of the first three rounds, she has missed a total of just four greens. In Thompson's first round she hit an impressive 18 greens in regulation.
This will be the second time that Thompson has carried a lead into the final round of an LPGA event. She was tied for the lead with Song-Hee Kim entering the final round of the Avnet LPGA Classic in Mobile, Ala. back in April, but went on to shoot a 78 on Sunday and finish in a tie for 19th.
"It definitely helps having that experience," Thompson said. "Definitely going to try to play a lot better. But I learned a lot from there. I probably got a little fast and jumbled up my thoughts. I'm just going to free swing tomorrow and just take one shot at a time and take it slow."
If Thompson can hold on to win, she would become the youngest champion in LPGA history. Thompson will be 16 years, 7 months and 8 days on Sunday. Marlene Hagge was 18 years, 14 days when she won the 1952 Sarasota Open, which was an 18-hole event. Hagge won two 18-hole events at the age of 18. The youngest winner of a multi-round event on the LPGA Tour was Paula Creamer, who captured the 2005 Sybase Classic when she was 18 years, 9 months and 17 days.
Age is just a number: Thompson is certainly drawing a lot of attention based on the fact that she's only 16 years old, but it's not just the youngsters who are near the top of the leaderboard heading into Sunday's final round.
There is a trio of players over the age of 38 who currently sit in the top-10 at the Navistar LPGA Classic. They are Karen Stupples (38), Pat Hurst (42) and Juli Inkster (51). Inkster got some help in her round thanks to a hole-in-one on Saturday. She used a 7-iron to hole out from164 yards on the par-3 13th. It was her fourth career hole-in-one on the LPGA Tour and helped propel her to a 3-under 69 and move from a T23 into 10th place by herself.
"The pin was back left," Inkster said. "My ball mark was probably 15 feet short of it. It just kind of went in. I didn't see it. In competition I think that's my fourth. I think my ninth or tenth all‑time."
A busy Moving Day: There were a number of players who took advantage of moving day on Saturday with low rounds. Rookie Tiffany Joh fired the low round of the day, a 7-under 65 to move from a tie for 42nd into a tie for third. Joh will be paired in the final group on Sunday with Thompson and Lee. There were a total of 21 rounds under par on Saturday.
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 Saturday's third round the 16th hole notched 12 birdies which raised $1,200 for the Wounded Warrior Project. In total, 72 birdies have been made on the hole over the first three rounds equaling a donation of $7,200.
LEXI THOMPSON, Rolex Rankings No. 124
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome our leader, Lexi Thompson, into the interview room. Congratulations on another great round today, and now 15‑under par for the tournament, leading by five shots. Tell me what it was like out there today and take me a little bit through your round.
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, well, the front nine went pretty good for me today. The back I just had one birdie, one bogey the whole nine. But the front nine I think I birdied 6, 7, 8, and 9, so that helped out a lot. I think I birdied another hole. I think 3 ‑‑ no, 4, so that helped. I just tried to play consistent. Just not make that many bad scores and just make bogey the worst.
Q. You've been hitting a lot of greens in regulation. Could that be one of the biggest keys for you being consistent and being able to put up these scores?
LEXI THOMPSON: Definitely. Just trying to get the ball in the fairway and just place it out here, that all ‑‑ that's really important. Just got to trust your line and just go for it. Hitting greens is really important.
MODERATOR: You'll be playing in the final group tomorrow as the leader. It's not the first time you've been in the lead heading into the final round. What did you take from the experience before at the Avnet LPGA Classic, and how much do you think that will help you when you go out there tomorrow?
LEXI THOMPSON: It definitely helps having that experience. Definitely going to try to play a lot better. But I learned a lot from there. I probably got a little fast and jumbled up my thoughts. I'm just going to free swing tomorrow and just take one shot at a time and take to slow.
Q. Could you go through some of your birdie putts.
LEXI THOMPSON: I made the one on No.4. It was about a 15‑footer left to right. It was going a little fast, but I was just like, As long as it hits the hole, that's fine. No. 6 I had about a 12‑footer right to left; made that. Then the par‑3, I had about a 10‑footer a little right to left again and made it. Birdied another about 12‑footer right to left and made that. No. 9 I his I think I had about a 25‑footer, so I was trying to two putt, but...
Q. What was it like making that one after the eagle in front of you?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, that definitely helps, I mean, only losing one shot there. But Becky eagled the first hole. She hit like a wood in and it ricocheted off the hill and went in. So it was a good start for her. I was just waiting for my eagle to come, but never did.
Q. You've never won a tournament. Is that a big hurdle for you to cross right now?
LEXI THOMPSON: It's definitely not a hurdle. I mean, that's my goal. I always go into every tournament wanting to win. My goal tomorrow, I'm at 15, just going to take one shot at a time and try to get it to 20.
Q. And then you're minus 6, minus 4, minus 5. Awfully consistent. Any secret to that?
LEXI THOMPSON: Just playing consistent. You know, just keeping my thoughts really simple has definitely helped me out a lot. Just thinking about tempo and just placing it in the right spot out here.
Q. You've talked a lot this week about how you've changed the as a golfer over the last two years since turning professional. What's been the biggest key for you in being able to compete this consistently? What has changed over that stretch?
LEXI THOMPSON: Probably just my thoughts. You know, when I get over a shot, just keeping it real simple. I have my dad line me up, so once he says I'm good and just tempo, that's all I think about. Tempo and that's it. I used to think about a whole bunch of different things going on in my brain, and it was just not good for me. So cannot think about a lot of things.
Q. (No microphone.)
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, it all depended on I had, like what my miss was. So maybe getting quick or my swing was long. You know, just thinking about anything that can be going wrong in my swing to make that miss. So I just think about tempo and it's been working, so...
Q. What has this tournament and the first stage of qualifying school done for your confidence?
LEXI THOMPSON: Definitely boosted my confidence a lot. I went into there just so relaxed. We got golf carts, so it was a lot more at ease and relaxing. It was like I was playing my home course pretty much, felt like.
Q. Nationally there will be more attention on you tomorrow ‑ even though there is always a lot of attention on you ‑ for being 16 years old and being in this position. What do you think that's going to mean for your career and for the LPGA?
LEXI THOMPSON: I mean, it's definitely going to change my life and my career. But, you know, just got to take one shot at a time. Can't get ahead of yourself in this game. Just got to be on your feet and hope for the best.
Q. How many autographs did you sign?
LEXI THOMPSON: I have no idea. There was a lot at the end. I didn't think they were going to stop. But I love my fans. Having all these little girls out following me, it's just great to have them.
Q. (Question regarding her watch.)
LEXI THOMPSON: No. It's nice and tight. Not losing that. Definitely not.
TIFFANY JOH, Rolex Rankings No. 135
Q. Heck of a round.
TIFFANY JOH: Thanks.
Q. Minus 7 today. That's incredible. Tell me about your round.
TIFFANY JOH: It was funny, because it was really up and down in my front nine. I think I didn't make a single par in like my first five or six holes. I started off with two birdies and then made a quick bogey after that and then made another birdie and then made another bogey.
So it was a little up and down, but I had probably like nine birdies overall today. So the two bogeys that I left out there kind of hurt a little bit, but at the same time, I'll take my round.
Q. Absolutely. You have somebody at minus 15 now, but the next person is at minus 10; you're at minus 8 now. Tell me about tomorrow. Do you got a shot? What are you going to do differently?
TIFFANY JOH: I don't think I'm going to do anything different. Just keep going out there with the same mindset I had today, which is not really setting any expectations for myself. Yesterday I had a pretty solid round going, and I was 4 over my last (indiscernible) holes.
So I learned my lesson there and I know not to get caught up in the future. So now I'm just going to have fun and go out there and see what happens.
Q. If you golf tomorrow like you did today, who knows what'll happen.
TIFFANY JOH: Yeah, we'll see.
Q. Today with a fabulous round of 65. Nine birdies and two bogeys. What was the key to the success today?
TIFFANY JOH: I think it was just comfort. I got to play with a former teammate of mine, Maria Jose Uribe. Also got play with Sophie Gustafson, who was super nice the entire round. I think it was just a matter of being comfortable out there.
Q. You said there was a little bit of an awkward moment playing with Sophie today. Explain.
TIFFANY JOH: Well, I had actually never met her before, but I put her in the first video, the She Beats It one, and I had a quick flash of her hitting a shot and then I tried to make her name rhyme, so I actually called her serve and Sophie Gustafson [sic.] So today on the tee box was the first time I had met her. She had obviously seen the video, too, so we kind of had a little awkward meeting from the get‑go.
Q. How did you conceptualize these videos?
TIFFANY JOH: I don't know. I think it's just I tend to ‑‑ when I sing along to songs, I tend to get all the words wrong anyway and just end up making up my own. So I think that's just kind of how it happened.
Q. What kind of feedback have you been getting fellow pros?
TIFFANY JOH: Um, I think it's a mixture of weird, awkward looks if they've been in the video and obviously don't know me and I don't know them. But then a mixture of some laughs. I don't know if it's at my expense, but I'll take it either way.
Q. How did you get Beth Bader to dirty dance like that?
TIFFANY JOH: It was so easy. One take. She didn't repeat a single move. Honestly, I just out the camera there, turned on the music, and she went off. So now we're trying get her on Ellen.
Q. Oh, I think that would be great. I would love to see you on Ellen as well. Have you been here before?
TIFFANY JOH: This is my first year.
Q. Welcome to Alabama.
TIFFANY JOH: Thank you.
Q. Heck of a round. How many videos have you done?
TIFFANY JOH: I've done a lot, but only two of them are music videos. The rest of them are ‑‑ it was my first year on the Futures Tour and I was really bord and I had a lot of time. Just they're kind of stupid little clips that I do going to the gas station or going to a restaurant or something.
Q. So something to kind of take up the time a little bit?
TIFFANY JOH: Yeah, pretty much. I've always been kind of a YouTube junkie anyway.
Q. What's your favorite one?
TIFFANY JOH: That I've made or favorite YouTube video?
Q. Favorite one of yours, yeah.
TIFFANY JOH: I have to say Grip It just because Beth Bader dancing in it is priceless. You will never see that anywhere else.
KAREN STUPPLES, Rolex Rankings No. 61
Q. You turned it on on the backside. What was the difference on the back nine today?
KAREN STUPPLES: You know, I don't really know. I mean, I think maybe it's a little less in the rough. Hit some really good quality shots in the back nine. Hit some close so didn't have to make any long putts, and that really makes a bit of difference. Using the contours, having the right little break here and there kind of helps as well. So yeah, I was happy with it.
Q. Next week is a big week. We all know it's Solheim Cup.
KAREN STUPPLES: Yeah.
Q. Playing this well heading into it, is that what you had been hoping for?
KAREN STUPPLES: Absolutely, because, I mean, you don't want the stress of trying to find your game when you get to something as big as a Solheim Cup. I feel like I want to go there knowing I've got everything I need, and then my only focus needs to be on adjusting to the golf course and the conditions and learning who I am going to play with and all that stuff.
So I don't have to fight on the range, What's my swing doing? You know, I'm at the point where I don't have to worry about that. And I've kind of been that way all year. This year has been a good, solid year for me. Yeah, I feel very happy about it.
Q. You're up near the top of the leaderboard, but Lexi seems to be running away from the field.
KAREN STUPPLES: Yep.
Q. What's the feeling heading into tomorrow and how impressed are you with how well she's been playing this week?
KAREN STUPPLES: I've always been impressed with her. I mean, when you come out and you finish second at Evian, second at the U.S. Open, how can you not be impressed.
I think obviously turning professional was a little adjustment for her at the start of the year. But, look, here she is now. She knows where her goals are, she knew she was going through qualifying school, she knew she was heading out here, and I think she came here and just relaxed and played. She didn't feel like she had to prove anything to anybody. So here she is doing what she does best, and that's playing awesome golf. She'll be here soon enough.
BECKY MORGAN, Rolex Rankings No. 167
Q. Talk about your round. Tell me how the day went.
BECKY MORGAN: Well, I started off and holed my second shot on 1, so I had a good start. Then I made a couple ‑‑ I was a little scrappy today and didn't putt as well.
Made a few bogeys and stuff, so generally hit it better the last two days than I did today, but I hung in there. Going to try and have a low score tomorrow.
Q. Even for the day; Thompson is at minus 15; you're at minus 8. Do you have a shot?
BECKY MORGAN: Lexi played great today, so I will have to play really well. You know, anything can happen in this game. The way she played today was really impressive.
So just going to go out and play my game tomorrow, hopefully make some putts like I did the first two days and make some birdies, because birdies kind of dried up today.
Q. Thompson is young. Describe her game today. What made it good?
BECKY MORGAN: She hits it absolutely miles. She hit it really straight today, so, I mean, she has wedge into a lot of the par 4s, which is huge around here. And she putted great, so it was very impressive.
Q. So she's going to be tough to take tomorrow, but doable still, right?
BECKY MORGAN: Yeah, I mean, who knows. This game is kind of crazy sometimes. She played great. Someone is going to have to play really well to beat her tomorrow, but you never know.
STACY LEWIS, Rolex Rankings No. 11
Q. Tell me about today's round.
STACY LEWIS: It was awful. My swing felt bad, felt horrible over the putts. Just a really bad day.
Q. But there's always tomorrow.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I mean, kind of shot myself out of the tournament today so I'm pretty frustrated with it. Just go out there tomorrow and just try to move up the leaderboard.
Q. You're a veteran; Thompson is young. Tell me about her game today. How do you think she played today?
STACY LEWIS: I mean, she played really well. She made pretty much everything she looked at and played really solid. She played well and deserves to be where she is.
JULI INKSTER, Rolex Rankings No. 47
Q. Can you tell me about your hole-in-one?
JULI INKSTER: The pin was back left. My ball mark was probably 15 feet short of it. It just kind of went in. I didn't see it. In competition I think that's my fourth. I think my ninth or tenth all‑time.
Q. What do you think of the level of Lexi Thompson's play?
JULI INKSTER: Oh, my God. It's incredible. She's 16. I didn't even start until I was 15, so she's a good player. She hits it long. She's got a good touch. She works on her game. You know, it's incredible.
Q. If she's able to complete this and win this tournament as a 16 year old, what would that mean for this sport?
JULI INKSTER: It means we got a good 16 year old out here, you know. You know, they're just starting younger and they're just so much better. You know, now they're not even finishing high school. It's just a different world.
Q. When you were 16, what was going through your mind?
JULI INKSTER: 16 I didn't even know what the LPGA was, you know. (Laughter.) I just kind of fell into golf. I got a job working at the golf course and I just started playing. You know, I never watched golf.