Sunday, April 6, 2014

Kraft Nabisco Championship Sunday: Lexi Thompson's Bogey-Free 32 Heading Out Allows Her to Cruise Home for Her 1st Major

Lexi Thompson had a 36-hole bogey-streak end on the 18th hole yesterday of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, but she didn't let that bother her today.  She just started a new one, and it proved too much for 3rd-round co-leader Michelle Wie and everyone chasing them today.

After 4 birdies in her 1st 9 holes, Thompson led Wie and Se Ri Pak by 5, while nobody else was even within shouting distance.  Charley Hull's bogey-free run had ended at 40 holes in a big way, with a double bogey and a bogey to finish the front.  Meanwhile, Thompson kept making par after par on the back, and although Cristie Kerr briefly got within 7 shots of her, and Stacy Lewis made a late birdie to finish at -7, Lexi's only real competition was Wie, who cut her lead to 3 with birdies on 11 and 14.  But that was as close as Michelle would get today, and when Pak doubled the 18th to hand the bronze to Lewis, Thompson had won her 4th title and 1st major on the LPGA by 3 shots over Wie, 7 over Lewis, and 8 over Pak and Kerr.

If the back 9 may have seemed a bit anticlimactic, Thompson's consistent excellence would be seriously underestimated.  On a day when some of the best golfers in the world ran into worlds of trouble, Lexi stayed strong.  Even as Hull fell to -4 and Catriona Matthew stumbled back to -2 thanks to trouble down the home stretch, Ji-Yai Shin couldn't buy a birdie all day and dropped to -1, ending up tied with Chella Choi, who matched Hull's and Matthew's 76s.  Mirim Lee had a great chance to make up some ground on Lydia Ko in the Rookie of the Year race this week, but she, too, finished with a 76 and allowed Ko to pull within 1 shot of her.  World #1 Inbee Park opened with a double and ended up shooting a 75 that dropped her back to +4 and solo 38th.  A trio of Thailand's finest fell back to +5, as Thidapa Suwannapura (76), Pornanong Phatlum (77), and P.K. Kongkraphan (77) wasted opportunities to make a statement.  But at least they beat So Yeon Ryu (77, +6), Ha Na Jang (79, +8), Sun Young Yoo (79, +8), Sei Young Kim (77, +10), Caroline Hedwall (78, +11), and Ai Miyazato (76, +12), among many others.

Given all those Sunday train wrecks, Thompson's bogey-free 68 secured a very impressive win for a player who still is, after all, a teenager.  For Lexi to beat low amateur Minjee Lee by 14 shots, despite the fact that Lee finished -3 and bogey-free over her last 10 holes, says a lot about how overwhelming Lexi was this week and particularly over the final 54 holes.  Karrie Webb and Anna Nordqvist have won twice each on the LPGA already this season, but Lexi beat them by 12 and 13 shots, respectively.  Lewis would have had to get twice as many under par as she did this week just to have tied Lexi.  And Shanshan Feng was the only other player besides Pak and Kerr to avoid getting beat by 10 shots or more this week by Thompson.

In short, this is the kind of 1st win at a major that makes you wonder how many Lexi will collect over the course of her career!

[Update 1 (11:02 pm):  Brent Kelley agrees!]

[Update 2 (11:28 pm):  Lexi's victory moves her from #37 in my last ranking of the best on the LPGA in majors since 2000 to #16 now.]


Tony Jesselli (Tonyj5) said...

Nice recap. When Lexi is on her game there is no one quite like her.

Looking forward to the update of the "Best on the LPGA 3 to 6 Wins"

Colin N.Z said...

Team USA is looking stronger every week. For the sake of the IC I just hope they can all hold form and have not peaked. On current form they could now be considered favourites. While South Korea still look good some of the other team players will be looking to make big improvements to make it a more even tournament. Not sure what's happend to Beatriz Recari.

Anonymous said...

You should include the du Maurier in your calculations of ranking the players in the Majors. Just consider the du Maurier (Canada) and the Women's British Open together as the British Commonwealth Major, since one replaced the other.