Lexi Thompson and Eun-Hee Ji share the first-round lead after both carding rounds of 7-under 65 at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic. The duo sits one shot ahead of Jessica Korda who is in solo third after a 6-under 66. Thompson carded eight birdies and one bogey on the par 3 2nd hole in the morning wave while Ji moved her way into a share of the lead late in the afternoon with a seven birdie, bogey-free effort. Both rounds were season bests for 18-hole scores for the leaders.
A group of seven players sit two shots back in a tie for fourth at 5-under par including three Americans, Nicole Castrale, Mina Harigae and Jennifer Johnson.
Thompson started her day on the 10th hole and opened with three pars before getting her first birdie on the par 5 13th.
“I love the par 5s here, I get to hit pretty much driver on every hole out here so it's definitely an advantage for me,” said Thompson.
She would birdie three of the four par 5’s on Thursday and likes to use her length off the tee for more birdie opportunities. She ranked third in the field in average driving distance through 18 holes this week and currently ranks sixth on Tour for the season.
Thompson made the turn at the 18th at 4-under par after carding three consecutive birdies on Nos. 16, 17, 18. After her only dropped shot on No. 2, the teenager strung together another three in a row on the fifth, sixth and seventh to move to 6-under with two to play.
“I definitely had some momentum,” said Thompson. “I made a few birdies at the end of my first nine. I was hitting it pretty close and I drained a few putts. So I was just taking one shot at a time, not trying to get ahead of myself because it's golf, anything can happen, and I was lucky enough to make a few more birdies on the second nine.”
She’d capped off the round on the 9th hole sticking her approach shot to six inches for an easy birdie putt that pushed her to 7-under for the day.
“Yeah, that was a good shot to end on,” said Thompson. “I just had a three‑quarter pitching wedge and just committed to it. I actually came out of a shot the first and the last hole and just scratched that.”
Ji, the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open champ, carded five of her seven birdies on the front nine and said her flatstick in the five to 10 feet range came in the clutch on Thursday.
“I felt really good with my putting today,” said Ji. “If I had 5- or 10-foot putts, I felt like I could make it. So I was really focused on it and I was really positive with my putter.”
Ji carded her seventh and final birdie on the par 5 16th to gain a share of the lead and left a 15-foot just short for birdie on the 18th.
“I just like a really fast green,” said Ji. “This is really fast and in really good shape on the course. I just like it.”
Rolex Rankings No. 2 and defending champion Stacy Lewis had what looked a solid round going until her final hole on the par 4 9th hole. She said she caught a number of bad breaks throughout her round, but the worst came last.
“Yeah, I didn't really have anything go right today,” said Lewis. “I had one ball hit the sprinkler and go in the trees and one hit the cart path and go in the trees. Just kind of got some bad breaks with lies and really just didn't have any bounces go my way. So I guess to shoot what I did was pretty good.”
She had six birdies and two bogeys heading to her final hole at 4-under par and hit her tee shot into the woods. Lewis took the option of reteeing with an added stroke and knocked her third shot to the base of the grandstand behind the green. She would chip to ten feet which left her with some work to close out with a six for double bogey.
“Yeah, it was a lot of work, there was a lot going on there,” said Lewis. “Even I went back and hit a good drive and got up there and had no shot for the shot into the green, so it's just kind of the way things went all day.”
Topics: Airbus LPGA Classic