Marina Alex rallies for first win at LPGA Cambia Portland Classic

PORTLAND, OR - SEPTEMBER 02: Marina Alex celebrates her victory during the final round of the LPGA Cambia Portland Classic at Columbia Edgewater Country Club on September 2, 2018 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images) Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Marina Alex rallies for first win at LPGA Cambia Portland Classic

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Marina Alex rallies for first win at LPGA Cambia Portland Classic

Marina Alex certainly didn’t look like someone who had never hoisted a trophy on the LPGA. In her 124th tour start, the 28-year-old Alex came roaring from six back to claim the Cambia Portland Classic. Five birdies in a row to close out the front nine gave her an opening 30. She led the entire back nine, though said she hadn’t a clue about her position until after her third shot into the 72nd hole.

“I was trying purposefully not to look at the leaderboard because I think sometimes it just gets me a little stressed out,” Alex said. “I get anxious, and then I think, ‘oh, I have a lead, I need to protect it,’ and I kind of just pretended all day that I was behind and that I needed to play catch-up.”

The tactic brought out Alex’s best. The fifth American to win on the LPGA in 2018, Alex closed with a 7-under 65 for a 269 total at Columbia Edgewater to beat reigning Ricoh Women’s British Open champion Georgia Hall by five strokes. Hall, who held the lead heading into Sunday, played in the final group alongside Minjee Lee.

Both players played uncharacteristically poorly, with Lee notching the second-highest final-round score of her career, a 77. Hall looked out of sync most of the day, carding only one birdie (a 30-footer) in a closing 75.

‘That’s incredible’

“The pin positions were really, really tough,” Hall said. “The front nine was unbelievable. I couldn’t even get to hardly any of them. I was just trying to, like, stay patient and do what I could to kind of stay in it. I mean, she shot, what, 7-under? That’s incredible.”

To Hall’s point, the closest anyone came to Alex’s 65 was 69, a stark contrast to the start of the week. Hall’s second-round 63 was bettered only by Alex’s career-best 62 on Thursday, a dream start that proved difficult to follow.

Alex chose to look at the hole she had dig out of in the final round as a welcome challenge.

“I felt like I could just go out there and freewheel it and make as many birdies as I could,” said Alex, who fell just shy of her 8 under goal.

Stacy Lewis connection comes through

Travis Wilson, longtime caddie for Stacy Lewis, wanted to get to Portland this year while his boss was on maternity leave. Coming back to Columbia Edgewater feels like a homecoming, said Wilson, who said most would agree that Portland offers the best caddie accommodations of the year.

Wilson signed up for three weeks with Alex, starting in Indianapolis. Portland marked their final stop together, and Wilson came in as the defending caddie, so to speak. Lewis, of course, won the 2017 Cambia Portland Classic after pledging to donate her winnings to the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.

Asked to compare the two experiences Wilson said, “Stacy last year was – she’s a champion. She was playing for a different cause last year. That was all she was thinking about was that, and she attributed that to God guiding her to help other people. Marina was so rock solid all week, it was just amazing. She didn’t look past the next shot. She was just great all week.”

As for continuing on with Alex this season, Wilson said he was looking forward to time off in the fall, something he hasn’t had in 25 years.

Alex credits much of the development of her game as a professional to her work with Karrie Webb’s longtime instructor, Ian Triggs.

“It’s just nice that everything that we’re working on is kind of just becoming my own,” Alex said. “And I feel comfortable when I’m swinging.”

It all fell in place for the Alex in her sixth season on the LPGA. A week that makes her the 150th player to cross the $2 million mark in earnings. A week that could change the trajectory of her career. Gwk

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