Thompson fires career-best 9-under to lead Navistar LPGA Classic

Lexi Thompson made a little more history Thursday in the Navistar LPGA Classic, opening her title defence with a career-best 9-under 63 to take a two-stroke lead.
Lexi Thompson lines up a putt at the 17th hole during the first round of the Navistar LPGA Classic on Thursday. (Darren Carroll/Getty Images)

Lexi Thompson made a little more history Thursday in the Navistar LPGA Classic, opening her title defence 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 Hee Young Park were tied for second at 65 in the final full-field event of the year.

Hamilton's Alena Sharp and Charlottetown's Lorie Kane were in a group tied for ninth after shooting a 67. Samantha Richdale (71) of Kelowna, B.C., was tied for 52nd, while Rebecca Lee-Bentham (75) of Richmond Hill, Ont., was in a group tied for 112th.

Isabelle Beisiegel (77) of Saint-Hilaire, Que., was tied for 126th and Kirby Dreher (78) of Fort St. John, B.C., was 129th.

Breakfast of champions

Following the pattern Thompson set last year en route to her lone tour victory, she had breakfast at the 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 favourite 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."

In the 2009 tournament as a 14-year-old amateur, she was tied for the lead after two rounds before finishing 27th. She was 16th in 2010.

"I love being here in Alabama," Thompson said. "I'm really comfortable out here. ... (The course) definitely rewards good shots, and that's what I like."

Thompson averaged more than 266 yards on the two measured driving holes.

"She really hits it far," said top-ranked Yani Tseng, Thompson's playing partner for the first two rounds. "On the par 3s, she's hitting a 9-iron and I'm hitting an easy 7. It was a lot of fun watching her."

Salas, 61st on the money list in her rookie season, had nine birdies and two bogeys in her best tour round.

"I started seeing camera guys coming up and I'm like, 'Uh, oh, here we go,"' Salas said. "The nerves always kick in. I just wanted to stay calm and do my thing. I got up and down on 18, and it was a good, solid day."

Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez has mentored Salas.

"It's just great to have the support from a Hall of Famer who you've looked up to not only on the golf side but outside of the golf course," Salas said. "She's just a great role model not just for me but for all the young players out here."

Third-ranked Stacy Lewis was three strokes back at 66 along with Karen Stupples, Amanda Blumenherst, Wendy Ward and Mi Hyang Lee.

"It was actually a pretty frustrating 66," said Lewis, a two-time winner this year. "I had a ton of putts go right over the edge and just lip out."

Tseng and Michelle Wie were eight strokes behind at 71.