Baldry: Thompson's 66 could have been lower

Lexi Thompson plays a tee shot during the first round of the Navistar LPGA Classic.

Lexi Thompson plays a tee shot during the first round of the Navistar LPGA Classic.

PRATTVILLE, Ala. – Lexi Thompson christened the newly renovated Senator course last Sunday morning. The 16-year-old was the first person to strike a shot here since June, thanks to a summer renovation that included a resurfacing of all 18 greens with Champion Bermudagrass and a redesign of the par-5 fifth hole.

“This course is amazing right now,” Thompson said. “It's in perfect condition for us. I was the first to hit a shot out here, so there was no divots or ball marks.”

By Thursday, Thompson still was treating this stop on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail like her personal playground. Thompson hit 18 greens en route to a 6-under 66 Sept. 15 at the Navistar LPGA Classic, leaving her one behind Jennifer Johnson. She had 14 putts for birdie within 15 feet.

“I don’t know that I’ve seen much better than that,” said her father/caddie Scott Thompson. He also noted that had his daughter possessed the enviable touch of Cristie Kerr on the greens, she’d be 12 under.

According to Scott’s unofficial stats, Lexi missed five birdie putts from 10 feet and in and three-putted from 13 feet on No. 13.

“I definitely left some out there,” Lexi said.

Thompson met with her instructor, Jim McLean, in the weeks leading up to this event, and they didn’t even talk about ball-striking. Instead, they concentrated solely on short game.

This marks Thompson’s eighth start on the LPGA this season, including the U.S. Women’s Open. She also played in Australia in January and twice on the LET.

She has earned $25,274 toward the top 80 on the money list, which would be the equivalent of 110th on the money list. This week marks Thompson’s last chance to avoid the final stage of LPGA Q-School. Should she win this week, Thompson would have to again petition the LPGA to gain membership, though that shouldn’t be a problem since commissioner Mike Whan already granted her the ability to play Q-School as a 16-year-old.

Thompson whipped the field in the first stage in July, finishing 23 under over four rounds to win by 10 strokes. The second stage is scheduled for Sept. 27-30 in Venice, Fla.

The cutoff to determine the top 80 on the money list will be at the conclusion of the CME Group Titleholders in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 17-20. If Thompson finishes second this week, she’d earn $119,479. That would give her $144,753, ranking 44th on the current money list. Of course, with so many no-cut Asian events left on the schedule, it’s difficult to tell where Thompson might wind up by season’s end.

There are a lot of “ifs” in those scenarios. She’ll most likely wind up at the final stage of Q-School on Nov. 30-Dec. 4 in Daytona Beach.

If Thompson keeps striking it like she did today, Q-School will feel like child’s play.

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