INCHEON, South Korea – There have been 22 different winners on the LPGA in 27 events this season. The biggest misconception about the tour right now, says Marina Alex, is that the same players win every week. Alex, 28, is one of seven first-time winners in 2018, joining the likes of Pernilla Lindberg and Georgia Hall, both major champions. The LPGA has grown as deep as it is diverse.
Jessica Korda was in South Korea when Alex won in Portland, Ore., and asked Michelle Wie to send her videos when live streaming went kaput.
“I was crying I was so happy for her,” Korda said.
Alex was so overwhelmed by the reception that she got walking off the 18th green at the Cambia Portland Classic that she broke down in tears on her way into the scoring tent.
“We all were going nuts,” said former Vanderbilt teammate Jacqui Concolino.
There was a time not too long ago that Alex wasn’t sure if had what it took to keep her card on the LPGA let alone win. Too many weekends off. The inconsistency kept her from building confidence.
She hired Ian Triggs four years ago to help her become a more consistent ballstriker. It took time, but Alex felt like she started to find her groove on the LPGA toward the end of 2016. To then go from contender to winner, Alex had to learn how to treat Sunday like a Thursday.
“You’re going to get passed if you’re not keeping your foot on the gas pedal,” she said. “It just takes a long time to get out of the protection mindset and into the attacking that you do in the first couple days that you’re playing.”
Worrying less about everyone else freed her up to make a statement in Portland. Alex opened with a 62 on Thursday at Columbia Edgewater, but her closing 65 was even more impressive.
“That was probably one of the most impressive rounds of golf for the year I think, for anyone on tour,” Concolino said. “The pins were tucked, the greens were firm. It was just a really tough day. A couple under par was a really good score out there and Marina just blitzed it.”
Triggs was on hand in South Korea last week, walking with Alex during Wednesday’s pro-am round. He praised Alex for her ability to draw a line between refining her skill and playing the game.
“For most players it becomes a nightmare because they keep mixing the two together,” he said.
Concolino agreed: “I think that’s what makes her so good is that she’s able to push aside a technical aspect and get up there and hit the golf shots that are needed to get it close to the hole.”
Triggs, longtime instructor for Karrie Webb, said the two have a similar work ethic. Korda can’t say enough about Alex’s touch on the greens.
“I still think there’s so much more,” said Alex of what comes next. Capturing her first title was a significant step, but she has Solheim Cups and major championships now in clear focus.
Currently ranked 32nd in the world, Alex is 19th on the LPGA money list. Last season she finished 27th.
After next month’s CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., Alex said there might be a winners’ trip in store for her with Korda and Wie. It’s competitive out there, to be sure, but the admiration is genuine.
“People really do want the best for you,” Alex said. “I think there’s just so much emotion that goes into what we do … when you see someone achieve something you have to feel for them because you know how much work they’re putting in. I think there’s that level of bond we all share just knowing the sacrifices.” Gwk