Thompson outduels Wie to win Kraft Nabisco

By Randall MellApril 7, 2014, 3:15 am

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Trying to beat the guys was the right idea after all.

Lexi Thompson just took Michelle Wie’s idea and turned it on its head.

Thompson didn’t grow up dreaming of honing a game good enough to play the PGA Tour someday. She grew up trying to keep up with older brothers Nicholas and Curtis in three-way matches in the “Backyard Five,” a regular competition over a loop of five holes that wound around their home at TPC Eagle Trace in Coral Springs, Fla. She’s the baby sister who hated losing to her brothers because it meant she would have to do their chores. There’s no more profound analysis of why the 19-year-old Thompson is rocketing up the ranks of the women’s game.

That’s the irony of Thompson’s breakthrough Sunday at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. In becoming the second-youngest player to win a major, Thompson overwhelmed Wie in a head-to-head final-round showdown. Wie made a name for herself as a teen phenom wanting to play the best men in the world, and she got beat Sunday by the one woman in the game who plays most like a man.

Thompson played bomb and gouge around Mission Hills Country Club. She was second in driving distance for the week.

“Everyone I know who sees Lexi up close, who sees her play in person, from caddies to PGA Tour pros, says, `Dude, she doesn’t hit it like a girl. She mashes it,’” Nicholas Thompson, the oldest of Lexi’s two brothers, told GolfChannel.com. “She amazes people with some of the shots she can hit.”


Kraft Nabisco Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Nicholas is a PGA Tour pro. He watched Lexi’s victory on television after tying for 24th at the Shell Houston Open. He isn’t alone marveling over how his sister can overpower her competition.

“She can hit more shots than anyone,” said Rolex world No. 3 Stacy Lewis. “Lexi and Michelle are similar. Her and Michelle can hit shots than nobody else can hit, just because of their strength, how steep they can get into the ball. Nobody else can match that.”

As much as Thompson overpowered the Dinah Shore Course Sunday, she closed out her fourth LPGA title, her third in her last 12 starts, with a complete game. Her bogey-free 4-under-par 68 was the best round of the day, leaving her with a three-shot victory over runner-up Wie.

Thompson’s putting, deemed a weakness in her game in the past, never let her down. She rolled in a 15-foot birdie at the first hole and never looked back.

Late last year, Lewis warned folks what might be coming.

“As soon as she figures out her putting, she’s going to be unbelievable,” Lewis said at the season-ending CME Group Titleholders. “She’s hands-down the best ball-striker on tour.”

Lewis was there when Thompson made the traditional champion’s leap into Poppie’s Pond Sunday. She helped douse Thompson with beer in the celebration. Lewis was asked if this is the kind of performance she saw coming when Thompson’s putting came together.

“This is it,” Lewis said. “Her putting is what got her here today,” Lewis said. “Her ball-striking has always been good. It’s something she has relied on for so long, but the putting has been her thing. Over the last six months, though, you could see her starting to trust her stroke, believing in herself.”

That doesn’t portend well for the rest of women’s golf.

“I think this is her time,” Nicholas said. “I think this is just the start of what’s possible because she has so much talent and she’s still so young and she’s really just getting into training and working out.”

Morgan Pressel won the Kraft Nabisco when she was 18. She’s the only player younger than Thompson to win a major.

“This wasn’t unexpected,” Nicholas said. “It was just a matter of time.”

Thompson burst onto the golf scene as a 12-year-old. That’s how old she was when she played in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles, when she became the youngest player ever to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. She was just 16 when she won the Navistar Classic, becoming the youngest player at the time to win an LPGA event.

Scott and Judy Thompson, Lexi’s parents, will tell you the success their children enjoy is intertwined. They’ve made each other better. Nicholas is 31, the brother who paved the way into professional golf. Curtis is 21, a standout at LSU.

When Lexi jumped on her bike and raced after her brothers to the golf course as a little girl, she learned a wonderful paradox. She learned sometimes keeping up is the best way to get ahead.

“Lexi plays aggressively because of her brothers,” Scott said. “It’s how she learned to play keeping up with them. She wasn’t aiming away from pins today.”

She couldn’t beat her brothers playing that way, and it’s a large reason she’s becoming so tough to beat.

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 25, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


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Hahn jabs USGA over possible ball rollback

By Will GrayFebruary 25, 2018, 4:43 pm

As debate continues to heat up over possible sweeping changes to the golf ball amid distance concerns, PGA Tour pro James Hahn chimed in to question the merits of a potential rollback.

The ball and distance debate gained traction earlier this week when Jack Nicklaus offered that the ball should be rolled back to the approximate distances achieved in 1995, and he put blame for the current situation squarely at the feet of Titleist. That drew a response from former Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who put the onus back on the governing bodies.

It's an issue that will likely be discussed for months to come, but Hahn took to Twitter to throw a jab toward the USGA and play devil's advocate on some key arguments related to a possible rollback:

Hahn, who has two career PGA Tour wins and lost in a playoff last month at the Sony Open, ranks 55th on Tour this season in driving distance with an average of 301.2 yards off the tee.

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Na fires back over slow play criticism from cricketer

By Will GrayFebruary 25, 2018, 4:00 pm

Kevin Na fired back over recent criticism he received about his purported slow play at last week's Genesis Open.

Kevin Pietersen is a retired English cricketer with more than 3.6 million followers on Twitter. He tweeted a video of Na, known as one of the slower players on the PGA Tour, taking more than a minute to line up and hit what he described as a "Tap In" during the final round at Riviera:

He then added another video of himself on a green in Dubai, where he again called out Na and showed how long he believed it should take for a player to brush in a short putt:

Na has faced his fair share of slow play criticism, but this time he decided to defend himself. Na isn't on Twitter, but he took to Instagram to tell Pietersen to "stick to your own sport," pointing out both the length of the putt in question and the stakes that were involved during the final round, when Na went on to tie for second behind Bubba Watson:

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Pepperell wins his first European Tour title in Qatar

By Associated PressFebruary 25, 2018, 3:31 pm

DOHA, Qatar - Eddie Pepperell survived a tense finish to win the Qatar Masters at the Doha Golf Club on Sunday for his maiden European Tour title.

The 27-year-old Englishman held off a spirited challenge from compatriot Oliver Fisher, who needed a third successive birdie on the 18th hole to force a playoff, but had his putt from six feet slip past the hole for a par.

Pepperell shot a 2-under-par 70 for a four-day tally of 18 under 270, while Fisher, who started the day tied for the lead, could only manage a 71.

Sweden's Marcus Kinhult (68) finished third at 16-under.

The No. 154-ranked Pepperell made things difficult for himself with a bogey on the 15th hole, but hit a superb wedge to three feet on the next to get back to 18 under again.

Fisher, who appeared to have fallen out of contention with three bogeys starting on the third hole, stormed back with birdies on the 14th, 16th and 17th holes.

On the last, Pepperell laid up with his second into the thick rough, made wet and unwieldy by rain in the Qatar capital, but found the green in three and two-putted for the win when Fisher missed his birdie putt.


Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters


''I did the things I needed to do, I didn't play fantastic but I won ugly and for the first win to be ugly is good. Hopefully, I'll have some prettier ones in the future,'' said Pepperell.

''I knew I was playing well, especially tee to green, so I expected a lot of myself this week and I guess to pull it off is amazing. When Oli birdied the 17th, that was when it really caught up with me that I was only one ahead. I was in my own zone, I knew I had a couple of shots of lead but Oli did great. It was a tough front nine for him and I had to stay right in my own way and out of the two guys' way because they were struggling a bit and it's sometimes easy to get dragged into that.''

Fisher was disappointed, but saw the silver lining in the way he fought back.

''It went all the way to the last hole which, after my front nine, was what I was hoping for on the back nine,'' said Fisher, who won the 2011 Czech Open, but recorded his first top-three finish since the 2014 Africa Open.

''I hit a lot of good shots coming down the back nine and gave myself a lot of good chances, but there were just too many bogeys today, four in total, so you're never going to win a tournament making that many mistakes on a Sunday. But at least I pressed him all the way.''

Italian Renato Paratore (66) had the low round of the day and finished tied for fourth place at 15 under par, where he was joined by the Spanish pair of Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Pablo Larrazabal along with Gregory Havret of France.