Lexi Thompson is in position to win her second LPGA title this year.
The 22-year-old American looks poised to do more than win the LPGA’s Manulife Classic Sunday at Whistle Bear Golf Club in Ontario, Canada. With her putting stroke honed to a new level, she has her game in a good place to make a hard run with three major championships scheduled over the next eight weeks.
Sunday’s no sure thing in Canada, however, with some proven contenders chasing.
Thompson birdied the final hole Saturday at Whistle Bear to post a 5-under-par 67, giving her a one-shot leader over Lindy Duncan (67), a two-shot lead over two-time major champion In Gee Chun (68) and a three-shot lead over Ariya Jutanugarn (65), the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year last season. Canadian Alena Sharp ( 70) is also three behind.
Jutanugarn is one one-hundredth of a rankings point behind Rolex world No. 1 Lydia Ko with a chance to overtake Ko for the top spot Sunday. Ko isn’t playing this week.
If not for the four-shot penalty that blindsided her in the final-round of the ANA Inspiration in April, Thompson might already be the player in command of this season. Instead, it remains very much up for grabs, with 13 different winners in the first 13 events of the year.
Thompson has a strong record as a frontrunner. She has led or shared the lead going into the final round of six of her eight LPGA titles.
“I’m playing very well and making some good putts,” Thompson said. “Hopefully, just continue that tomorrow.”
Thompson is among the longest hitters in the women’s game, and her putting is making her dangerous this season. While Thompson has rode a hot putter in her career, putting has ranked as the most frustrating element of her game. She putted with her eyes closed for long stretches last season, but she spent this past offseason devoted to working on her stroke. It’s paying off. She ranks 23rd in putts per greens in regulation this year. She was 49th last year.
Thompson won the Kingsmill Championship three weeks ago. She has finished first or second in three of her last five worldwide starts.
“Winning always helps confidence,” Thompson said. “Just going to focus on one shot at a time tomorrow and do my routine and stick the same game plan I had the last three days.”