Patient Marina Alex rises near top, in position for 1st LPGA win at LA Open

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Patient Marina Alex rises near top, in position for 1st LPGA win at LA Open

LPGA Tour

Patient Marina Alex rises near top, in position for 1st LPGA win at LA Open

LOS ANGELES – There’s no one-size-fits-all timeline for when things start to click for an LPGA player. Many of the leading ladies on the women’s tour can’t buy a drink at the bar, rent a car without those pesky additional fees, or, as was the case with Lydia Ko for a long time, drive a car.

It often feels like a sprint to the top out here, but 27-year-old Marina Alex has taken a more traditional route, checking boxes as she climbs the world rankings and readies herself for that first tour victory. It could come as early as this week, where the steady Alex is one off Moriya Jutanugarn’s lead at the midway point of the inaugural HUGEL-JTBC LA Open at 7-under 135.

Alex won the SEC title as a sophomore at Vanderbilt and graduated in 2012 with a degree in communications. On the Symetra Tour, she recorded six top-10 finishes to place third on the money list and earn her full LPGA card. Alex’s first three seasons on the LPGA were successful in that she comfortably kept her card and laid the foundation for what’s happening now: She’s currently ranked 37th in the world with a pair of top-five finishes this season.

“She’s making 30-footers out there like they’re nothing,” said Brittany Lincicome, who played alongside Alex for the first two rounds. Lincicome praised the overall consistency of Alex’s game and believes her attitude and overall balance in life serves her well on what can be a tough grind.

Alex doesn’t have a mental coach. She often listens and learns from what top players say in their interviews.

“I know it’s like a basic,” said Alex, “to be present in what you’re doing and focus on one shot at a time – but really I think the people that are most successful are definitely doing that. I know that’s a cliché kind of at this point, but it really does work.”

Alex found herself getting anxious late on Thursday as she put herself at the top of the board. She’s more aware when it happens now and uses breathing and self-talk techniques to “chill a little bit … for lack of a better term.”

After the ANA Inspiration, Alex headed to the Masters for the first time, where she admittedly geeked out. She sounded like many golf fans when she called watching Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson play together on Tuesday a “dream come true.” While Alex played Augusta National in college and shot a couple over par, this was a different experience.

“Their imagination and creativity around the greens is just crazy,” said Alex of PGA Tour players. “They had all those shots – hybrid to full open-face, full-swing flop shots. I think most of us play standard shots and we play them well over and over again. They will tend to do things that you wouldn’t think about doing. It’s just different, but it’s cool.”

Alex’s putting this week has been exceptional, and she points toward work she did over the last two weeks off as a key reason she’s rolling the ball so well at Wilshire. While Ian Triggs is her swing coach, Alex’s godfather, Charlie Cowell, has always served as a second set of eyes for her short game. Cowell works as a teaching pro at Crestmont Country Club in New Jersey.

“I feel like I can see the line a little better,” said Alex of the tweaks to her setup.

It’s a line that could lead straight to the winner’s circle.

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