GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Even though Lexi Thompson has had plenty of firsts recently in her budding career, the 17-year-old professional golfer is having a very different season than other players.
This is her first full season on the LPGA Tour.
"I am really excited about it," Thompson said about regularly playing on the tour after her first round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic on Friday.
"Knowing where I am playing more (regularly), that's what I was used to when I was an amateur. When I am home (in Coral Springs, Fla.), I take it easy knowing I have a lot more events coming up."
The Classic marks her eighth LPGA tournament of the year. Last year, she competed in nine.
Perhaps there is a rise in Thompson's game now that her focus is in one place. Her first-round 69 is the best round she has shot on the Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club. She is tied for sixth heading into the today's second round. She tees off at 12:30 p.m. on the 10th hole with Cristie Kerr and Ai Miyazato.
Even at her age, she has some history here.
She made her professional LPGA debut as a sponsor's exemption at the Classic in 2010 at the age of 15. She missed the cut by four strokes that year.
Thompson also missed the cut in last year's Classic, but is now poised to make the final day in her third try.
She shot a 77 and a 75 last year, and in 2010, she shot 71 in the first round and a 76 in the second.
Even with some difficult conditions, Thompson had her best round here Friday.
"It definitely played a lot different with the wind," Thompson said. "It started blowing pretty hard. So you had to place it in the right spot and that's what it's all about."
Initially, it seemed as Thompson might have another rough outing.
She 3-putted the first hole, a par 4, and started with a bogey. Then on hole 6 (par 4), she bogeyed again and was already 2-over and fighting a rough wind coming off the bay.
Thompson knows two years ago that kind of beginning could have ruined her whole day, but now she's able to move past that.
"I have definitely matured," Thompson said. "That might have gotten me and let it control the rest of my round."
Thompson bounced back in a tremendous way. She birdied holes 9 and 14 to get back to even.
She then closed out the round with birdies on the final two holes, ending with a loud ovation from the crowd.
She was one of the longest hitters on the day, according to the LPGA website. Thompson averaged 281 yards on her drives. In comparison, Brittany Lincicome, who averages the longest drives on the Tour, averaged 269 on Friday.
"The better players I feel like are going to come out on top playing in harder conditions," said Lincicome, the reigning Classic champion. "Nobody is going really super low out there."
Thompson has what it takes to pull out a win after a solid opening round.
Last year, Thompson became the youngest winner of an LPGA event when she took home the title from the Navistar LPGA Classic in Prattville, Ala.
In addition, she is coming off a second-place finish in her last full-field tournament, the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic in Mobile, Ala.
"I feel really good about it," Thompson said. "I started off a little shaky. I stayed strong and held it through."
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