Mobile Bay LPGA Classic
RTJ Trail, Magnolia Grove, The Crossings
First-Round Notes and Interviews
May 16, 2013
Lexi Thompson -7, Rolex Rankings No. 25
Eun-Hee Ji -7, Rolex Rankings No. 68
Jessica Korda -6, Rolex Rankings No. 46
Stacy Lewis -2, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Thursday’s First-round Recap
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.”
Thompson’s Trail Guides: The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail has been kind to Lexi Thompson. Thompson entered the week with a 69.208 career scoring average in 24 rounds in LPGA tournaments on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Following today’s 7-under-par 65, she improved the mark to 69.04.
“Every hole is great,” said Thompson. “It's a great scene and just to have the fans out here and be back in Alabama, and for two events next year.”
Lexi Thompson was tied for the lead entering the final round of the 2011 Mobile Bay LPGA Classic (then called the Avnet LPGA Classic), but a 78 on Sunday dropped her into a tie for 19th. Later that season, she won the LPGA’s other Alabama-based event, then called the Navistar LPGA Classic, to become the youngest winner in LPGA Tour history at the age of 17 (a record later broken by Lydia Ko).
As an LPGA rookie last season, Thompson recorded runner-up finishes on both Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail stops in Mobile and Prattville. At Magnolia Grove, Thompson shot a final-round 65 to finish one shot behind champion Stacy Lewis. She again finished one shot behind Lewis on The Senator Course at Capitol Hill in September following a final-round 66. Thompson has earned the respect of an entire state and is always a fan favorite when the Tour is in town. Following her opening-round 65, the 18-year old signed autographs for a winding line of school children.
“You know, it's great,” said Thompson. “I saw a group of kids in red shirts, I was like, ‘What part of a group are you in’, and they're part of a school, so they have pretty much their whole school here. So it's great to see the all fans out here supporting this event. Alabama loves golf.”
Young guns: Lexi Thompson and Jessica Korda have been referred to as the faces of the next generation of American golfers on the LPGA. The duo has a long history dating back to their junior golf days in Florida and even had success together as teammates on the 2009 Jr. Solheim Cup Team and the 2010 U.S. Curtis Cup Team. They have an overall 3-0-1 record when they played together during the two team events and are hoping to get a chance to take their chemistry to an even bigger stage. Both youngsters are looking to earn spots on the U.S. Solheim Cup team this summer and would both be rookies at the biennial event.
“Well, me and Jessica grew up playing junior golf together, we played a lot of team events together, always competing,” said Thompson. “And we have very similar games, so that's why we've played in team events a lot together and played really well.”
Thompson ranks sixth in U.S. Solheim Cup team points while Korda ranks eighth. Korda said she would be excited about the chance to team up with her friend again.
“It would be cool,” said Korda. “We'll see when we get there, but we did so well together being paired up in Curtis Cup and Junior Solheim Cup, we kind of feed off of each other. We're both long so we've always had a good time when we play, so you never know what's going to happen.”
Tweet of the Day: “And it's a strike!!! @Brittany1golf @MobileBayLPGA” --@Stacy_Lewis who threw out the first pitch at the Arizona Diamondbacks AA affiliate Mobile Bay Bears game
Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Q. Overall general round, played well up until ‑‑
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I didn't really have anything go right today. I had one ball hit the sprinkler and go in the trees and one hit the cart path and go in the trees.
Q. What hole was the sprinkler?
STACY LEWIS: Par 5 on the back, like 13, 14, whatever hole that is. But yeah, hit the sprinkler, went in the trees; hit a cart path and went 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.
Q. I was going to say, you're still looking okay.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I hit my irons good, I made a lot of birdies, so that's something to take from today.
Q. Sure. Finished off with a good putt, kind of settled down on the last hole?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, it was a lot of work, there was a lot going on there. 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.
Lexi Thompson, Rolex Rankings No. 25
Q. It was just like you picked up where you left off last year. Were you thinking about that?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, I definitely had it in mind, but you know, it's a whole different year and a new day so I was just trying to go out and make some birdies. I knew my game was good, so just going to try to keep that going.
Q. What was the key to shooting what you did?
LEXI THOMPSON: I would say just consistent ball striking. I hit 17 fairways. No, I hit 17 greens, so just taking one shot at a time and just doing my pre‑shot routine, stay in the moment.
Q. What's it like to come off after shooting 7‑under and then sign autographs for a whole school?
LEXI THOMPSON: You know, it's great. I saw a group of kids in red shirts, I was like, What part of a group are you in, and they're part of a school, so they have pretty much their whole school here. So it's great to see the all fans out here supporting this event. Alabama loves golf.
Q. Can you talk about the group, I think you had three birdies in a row on your front nine, three in a row on the back nine. Did you have a lot of momentum going in those three holes or how did those break down?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I definitely had some momentum. I made a few birdies at the end of my first nine, I birdied 7, 8 and 9, or 16, 17 and 18 for that matter. 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.
Q. What's your favorite hole here? Does one stick out like I know I'm going to birdie this?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, 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. Every hole is great. It's a great scene and just to have the fans out here and be back in Alabama for two events.
Q. Jessica's coming kind of right up behind you, you guys are young, the U.S. stars coming up, Solheim Cup coming up for you guys, you're trying to make the team. What's your guys' relationship‑wise just knowing that you are the next generation of American golf?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, me and Jessica grew up playing junior golf together, we played a lot of team events together, always competing. And we have very similar games, so that's why we've played in team events a lot together and played really well. But she's a great player and there's so many other competitors out here, so I'm just going to try to do what I did today.
Q. If you guys make the team, it would be a possible pairing, do you think, in Solheim?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I mean, I would think so. If they look at our results from our other team events together, I think that would be smart.
Q. Talk about that approach shot that you hit on 9.
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, that was a good shot to end on. 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.
Q. Was that eight inches?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah.
LEXI THOMPSON: Pretty much six, eight inches.
Q. Just talk about the importance of getting off to a good start on day one, the position that that puts you in.
LEXI THOMPSON: It's very important to get off to a good start. I haven't had the best of first days, so to get this one under my belt with 7‑under is really important. But I'm just going to try and do what I did today for the next three days, hopefully see where it goes.
Q. What are you looking forward to the next three rounds?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, just going out and doing what I did today pretty much. I'm taking one shot at a time and just being confident out there, just free swinging. You know, I feel really good about myself right now, so I'm glad to be back in Alabama.
Jessica Korda, Rolex Rankings No. 46
Q. Just talk about your round at this point being one stroke back.
JESSICA KORDA: I mean, it's Thursday, so we'll talk about that if I'm in the same position Saturday. But it was a great round, bogey‑free 6‑under, so I'm pretty happy about that.
Q. It looked like you really tore up the par 4s.
JESSICA KORDA: Yeah, I was hitting the ball pretty good. I made two birdies my first two holes and I was like okay, this might be a good day.
Q. What was the key to your round? What did you feel like was working for you today?
JESSICA KORDA: Just stayed calm. I hit the ball pretty close, I took advantage of some of the par 5s that I could reach, and my putter was pretty hot today so hopefully it can stay the same.
Q. You're coming off a couple weeks' rest. How are you feeling, how's the wrist, how was your schedule coming into this?
JESSICA KORDA: Didn't really play the first week, kind of did more physical therapy and enjoyed my time at home and then started hitting off of a tee on Tuesday and then slowly starting my practice. I'm still kind of a little tentative on hitting the ground, so if I have a wedge shot, not a lot of them ‑‑ they weren't very pretty today.
Q. What’s it like playing here?
JESSICA KORDA: I mean, I love coming back to Alabama, this golf course really suits my eye and I'm just happy that we're here and that I get another year to play out here.
Q. All the hype with you and Lexi, being the up‑and‑coming U.S. stars, Solheim stuff, she said you guys have played so much junior golf, team golf, I said what would it be like for both of you to make the team and a possible pairing?
JESSICA KORDA: It would be cool, I mean, it would be cool. We'll see when we get there, but we did so well together being paired up in Curtis Cup and Junior Solheim Cup, we kind of feed off of each other. We're both long so we've always had a good time when we play, so you never know what's going to happen.
Eun-Hee Ji, Rolex Rankings No. 68
Q. Your whole group played really well today, you guys were all on fire. Did that help you just playing with the group that was playing really well?
EUN-HEE JI: Yeah, it is, because if someone's playing pretty well, I help them a lot.
Q. Who out of that group have you ever played with?
EUN-HEE JI: The Thai girl, I never played with her.
Q. (Inaudible.) Was that the difference?
EUN-HEE JI: I just like it really.
Q. How does it feel to be back in the lead again?
EUN-HEE JI: It's nice.
Q. Can you remember the last time you had the lead at least after the first round?
EUN-HEE JI: I can't remember. I think I was playing good in Rochester last year, but I finished about the second, but I was lead third round, yeah.
Q. So what are you looking forward to the rest of the week?
EUN-HEE JI: I just focus on my game and I just keep positive with my game.
Q. What do you think was the strongest part of your round today? You didn't miss many fairways, you didn't miss many greens.
EUN-HEE JI: No.
Q. There wasn't much to be mad about.
EUN-HEE JI: It's like I was practice round here, it was really soft, the fairway here, so it was really long par 4 and I couldn't make the ‑‑ I have to hit longer iron, but today it's a little drier fairway so it's more longer driver, so it's easier a little bit.
Q. So you got more yards off of your drive?
EUN-HEE JI: Yes.