Lexi Thompson‘s hands shook as she teed it up for her first drive today. Michelle Wie was cool, composed, focused. Both of them wanted this victory. Thompson brought three pro victories to the first tee and Wie brought two. They have essentially equal putting averages for the year, 30.3 per round. Both had played three rounds with an extraordinary level of confidence and professional skill. We expected a close and hard-fought battle. But almost from the start, Thompson outplayed Wie on the putting surface, 29 putts to Wie’s 33, and at fourteen strokes below par became the 42nd winner of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
How did Thompson react to her first major victory? “I’ve always seen myself winning the Kraft Nabisco and making the leap into Poppy’s Pond,” she told Golf Channel, with a huge smile across her face. Then she signed her card, collected her jump group, and took the traditional leap.
Wie opted for a conservative game plan, seeming to prefer her 3-wood off the tee in cases where Thompson stayed with her driver and gained yardage advantage over Wie on many holes. Still, this championship wasn’t won and lost on the tee box or in the fairway. The real contest was on the putting surface and that was where Thompson dominated her friend and competitor.
When all the cards were signed Rolex Ranked number 3 Stacy Lewis had played her way up from a 9th place start to a third place finish. With Inbee Park’s 38th place finish, Lewis will inch closer to the top of the Rolex Rankings.
Cristie Kerr, who played aggressively through the entire championship and at the mid-point looked good to figure in the final battle on Sunday, finished in a tie for 4th place with Se Ri Pak. Pak, who wanted badly to complete a career grand slam with a win at the Kraft Nabisco, had a very disappointing final round that ended with a double bogey on the 18th. Ouch!
Shanshan Feng, Angela Stanford, Azahara Munoz, Charley Hull and Amy Yang filled out the top of the leaderboard. Feng, at -5, took a solo 6th place. Stanford, Munoz and Hull, at -4, shared 7th place; and Yang, at -3, took solo 10th. None of them had a realistic chance to catch Thompson and Wie today.
The LPGA Tour goes next to Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii and the LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf April 16-19 and the LET is off until the Turkish Ladies Open in Antalya, Turkey, May 8-11.
I’ll cover both events and in the interim take a look at some of the players most likely to claim victory during this season.