Stacy Lewis fired a three-under par-69 on Sunday to hold off teenager Lexi Thompson and win the US$1.25 million Mobile Bay LPGA Classic by one stroke.
It was only the second career title for Lewis, whose only prior title in five LPGA seasons came last year at a women’s golf major, the Kraft Nabisco.
Lewis enjoyed a three-stroke lead on the back nine, but needed a clutch birdie at the par-5 16th and two closing pars to hold off fellow American Thompson, a 17-year-old who won her first title last year to earn an LPGA membership.
Lewis admitted it was a great relief to tap in for a par at 18 to finish 72 holes on 17-under 271. Thompson was a stroke adrift after a final-round 65 with France’s Karine Icher third on 273 after finishing 68.
“I haven’t been winning, but I’ve been so close and I wanted to put it away. I fought. I’m exhausted. I’m glad I didn’t have to play more holes,” Lewis said.
Lewis began the round with a two-stroke lead over compatriot Brittany Lincicome and opened with back-to-back birdies, then added another on the par-5 sixth to seize command.
However, Thompson, playing just ahead of Lewis, birdied the par-3 second and par-4 third, and added another at the sixth.
Thompson opened the back nine with a birdie and added back-to-back birdies at the par-5 13th and par-3 14th to pull within two strokes of Lewis.
When Lewis took a bogey at the par-4 15th and Thompson birdied the par-5 16th, the two were deadlocked atop the leaderboard.
“I didn’t look at the leaderboard until 18,” Thompson said. “I was focusing on my game and that was it.”
Lewis followed her bogey by making her own birdie at 16 to reclaim sole possession of the lead, then followed with two tense pars for the triumph.
“I knew when I made the bogey it was huge,” Lewis said. “I knew I had to make the birdie and I had two tough holes coming in.”
For Thompson, the near miss was another learning experience in a career that is just beginning.
“I hit it pretty good, was just really relaxed out there and had a lot of fun,” Thompson said.
Taiwan’s Candie Kung shot a final-round five-over 77 to drop to 62nd place on one-over 289.
Additional reporting by staff writer