PRATTVILLE, Ala. – Jennifer Johnson shot a career-best, 7-under-par 65 on Thursday to take the first-round lead over teenager Lexi Thompson in the Navistar LPGA Classic.
Johnson, a third-year pro with just $84,809 in career earnings, has pledged to donate half of her winnings this week to the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides services to severely injured soldiers.
“That’s some extra motivation,” Johnson said. “Hopefully, I can keep it up and give a bunch of money to those guys.”
Johnson was 6 under on the back nine on the Senator course at the Robert Trent Jones Trail’s Capitol Hill complex. She eagled the par-4, 389-yard 15th hole and had birdies on Nos. 10, 13, 17 and 18.
The 16-year-old Thompson is one stroke back after a 6-under 66, with Becky Morgan and Alison Walshe another shot behind. There is a seven-way tie for fifth at 4 under that includes Yani Tseng, the world’s No. 1 player.
Thompson had seven birdies and one bogey. Her bogey came on the par-3, 163-yard 13th hole. Thompson, who had birdied Nos. 11 and 12, recovered to birdie Nos. 14 and 15.
Thompson is no stranger to success at the Navistar LPGA Classic. As a 14-year-old amateur in 2009, she was tied for the lead after two rounds before finishing 27th. Last year, as a professional, Thompson tied for 16th.
“I just love coming to this tournament,” Thompson said. “It’s one I look forward to every year.”
On Thursday, she hit all 18 greens in regulation. Thompson finished with seven birdies, including four between Nos. 11-15. She bogeyed No. 13.
“I just focused on one shot and thought about tempo,” Thompson said. “If I just do that for the next three days, hopefully it will all go well.”
Morgan recovered from a shaky start to reach 5-under 67 and tie Walshe, who carded her best round of the season.
Morgan was 2 over after five holes but was below par after nine. She birdied four of the final five holes, including the last three, and drained an 18-foot putt on No. 17.
“I gave myself a good talking to and turned things around,” said Morgan, who is from Wales. “There were a few choice words in there. Sometimes, I need to give myself a good kick in the bum to turn things around.”