Indianapolis Motor Speedway may be the racing capital of the world, but on Thursday, it was Lexi Thompson’s playground. The 22-year-old Floridian returned a 9-under 63 and sits atop the leader board after the first round of the inaugural Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim.
Thompson notched 11 birdies to just two bogeys at Brickyard Crossing Golf Course, the Pete Dye-designed track that partially lies within the 2.5-mile oval racing surface.
“It was just overall a very solid round,” said Thompson, whose 63 is the second-best round of her 2017 season, behind only the 61 she returned in the second round of the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic. “It was quite the early morning so it was a bit cold on the range and struggled a bit on the range, but I just hit a few good drivers at the end and I just committed to one thing going into the round and I think that’s what made my day a lot easier on me. I just stuck to my routine and committed to my golf shots.”
Thompson’s commitment surely showed on her scorecard. She only needed 26 putts to make her way around Brickyard Crossing, and hit all but one fairway along with 16 of 18 greens. She said, “That round definitely gave me the confidence that I can make those birdies if I just let it go and fire at pins and just commit to my shots and don’t doubt it.”
Thompson, who won May’s Kingsmill Championship presented by JTBC, holds a one-stroke lead over LPGA veterans Kris Tamulis and Sandra Gal, who both returned bogey-free 64s on Thursday.
Tamulis improved her season-best round by three strokes, and comes into Indianapolis fresh off a season-best T15 finish at last week’s Cambia Portland Classic presented by JTBC. With the putts rolling, the 36-year-old put on a great show for several family members, including her parents, who made the trek down from her native Michigan.
“I putted good and been hitting it a lot better, which thank goodness because I’ve been really hitting it all over the park,” said Tamulis, whose lone LPGA victory came at the 2015 Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic. “So I didn’t necessarily think that I was going to shoot 8 under.”
Gal opened and closed with a hot hand, notching birdies at four of the first five holes as well as three of the last four. The 32-year-old from Germany finished in the top 10 of this year’s Lorena Ochoa Match Play presented by Aeromexico and Delta, where she reached the round of 16, but only has four top-20 finishes in stroke-play events.
“I struck it pretty well out there and then I made a few good putts,” added Gal, who is aiming for her second top-10 finish of 2017. “I’ve been feeling like my game’s been pretty good the last couple months but I just haven’t been scoring, so everything just came together.”
Moriya Jutanugarn and Lydia Ko round out the top 5, tied for fourth at 7-under 65. Like Tamulis and Gal, both players were bogey-free on Thursday.