|Korea’s Park Hee-young tees off on the 18th hole at the Navistar LPGA Classic on Thursday. (AFP-Yonhap News)|
PRATTVILLE, Alabama (AP) ― Lexi Thompson made a little more history Thursday in the Navistar LPGA Classic, opening her title defense with a career-best 9-under 63 to match the tournament record.
Last year, Thompson became the youngest champion in LPGA Tour history at age 16, winning by five strokes. Fifteen-year-old amateur Lydia Ko broke the record last month in the Canadian Women’s Open.
Thompson had nine birdies in her bogey-free round on the links-style Senator course at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s Capitol Hill complex. She missed only one green in regulation and had 26 putts.
“It feels really good getting a first round of 63 under my belt, but you just have to take it one shot at a time,” Thompson said. “Can’t get ahead of yourself in this game, so just going to hope to play like I did today for the next three rounds.”
Mika Miyazato and Lindsey Wright shot 63 in the 2010 event. Thompson’s previous best score on the LPGA Tour was a 65 in the final round of the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic.
She missed a birdie putt on the 18th hole by about 6 inches.
“I wasn’t thinking about the course record, I was just trying to put a good stroke on it like every other putt,” she said.
Lizette Salas and Park Hee-young were tied for second at 65, and third-ranked Stacy Lewis was another stroke back along with Karen Stupples, Amanda Blumenherst, Wendy Ward and Lee Mi-hyang.
Top-ranked Yani Tseng and Michelle Wie were eight strokes behind at 71.
Following the pattern she set last year en route to her lone tour victory, Thompson had breakfast at Waffle House down the street from the course. The plate of egg whites, wheat toast, hash browns and bacon was prepared specially by Thompson’s favorite cook, Valerie Perry.
“Well Valerie, she’s the main cook there and she sings, so it keeps me relaxed, keeps me laughing before my round,” Thompson said. “It’s a good atmosphere. ... She sings Justin Bieber ‘Baby’ pretty good, but puts ‘bacon’ instead of ‘baby.’ It’s pretty funny.”
ATLANTA (AP) ― In the one week Tiger Woods had away from golf during the FedEx Cup playoffs, Nick Faldo said he had lost his aura, Greg Norman said he was intimidated by Rory McIlroy and Johnny Miller claimed that Woods once wanted lessons from him.
“Nice week, huh?” Woods said, grinning.
Even better was to be back on the course Thursday at the Tour Championship, where Woods had the final word for at least for one day. He kept the ball in play at East Lake, chipped in for one of his six birdies and wound up with a 4-under 66 for a share of the lead with Justin Rose.
It was the first step toward what Woods hopes is a third FedEx Cup title, and another $10 million bonus.
“I probably could have gotten a couple more out of it,” Woods said about his opening round. “But I was probably right on my number.”
McIlroy, playing with Woods for the fifth time in these FedEx Cup playoffs, got up-and-down from short of the par-3 18th hole for a 69. McIlroy is trying to become the first player since Woods in 2006 to win three straight PGA Tour events in the same season, and he wasn’t overly alarmed by his start.
“Wish I could have shot a couple shots better,” McIlroy said. “But I’m in a good position going into tomorrow.”
The week began with Norman saying that Woods was intimidated by McIlroy, a suggestion that both players found amusing. While it’s doubtful that inspired Woods, he played as if he wasn’t ready to let McIlroy win a third straight playoff event and capture the FedEx Cup.
McIlroy, who has won three of his last four tournaments, and Woods are among the top five seeds at East Lake who only have to win the Tour Championship to claim the largest payoff in golf. Woods wasn’t interested in what anyone else was doing.
“Just winning,” he said. “Winning takes care of everything.”
Jack Nicklaus even weighed in on Norman’s comments to FoxSports.com. Nicklaus was doing a radio interview with ESPN 980 in Washington when told about Norman’s remarks that McIlroy intimidated Woods. Nicklaus said playfully, “Quiet, Greg. Quiet. Down, boy.”
“I think Tiger has a lot of wins left in him,” Nicklaus said.