Lexi Thompson watches a shot during her final round in Prattville, Ala., on Sunday. Thomspon, 16, won, breaking the record for the youngest winner ever on the LPGA Tour.
LEMONT, Ill. — Justin Rose was trying not to lose the BMW Championship until he decided to play like he wanted to win.
Rose already was feeling the pressure from watching a five-shot lead over John Senden shrink to one. He hit another mediocre shot that came up short of the 17th green, and while he faced a relatively simple chip, Rose thought about using his putter because it would eliminate any chance of a mistake.
"I knew it was kind of coming down to me," Rose said. "Either I was going to fritter it away or make something happen to win the tournament. That's how it felt. I nearly took the 'chicken stick' out there and putted it on 17, and I had a little chat with myself. ... I said, 'These are the moments where tournaments are won.'
"It was an easy chip, it just needed committing to, just not wimping out."
It turned out to be the right move.
Rose chipped in for birdie to restore his lead, then played the 18th without fear to close out an even-par 71 and a two-shot victory that sends him to the Tour Championship with a shot at the $10 million FedEx Cup prize.
"It was just nice to have made the right decision and then execute it," Rose said. "That's a great lesson to learn that down the stretch. It does come down to one moment sometimes, and you just need to be ready for it."
Coral Springs' Thompson dominates LPGA event in Ala., becomes youngest winner in tour history
PRATTVILLE, Ala. — Lexi Thompson was poised to become the youngest player to win an LPGA Tour event at a fresh-faced 16, sitting five strokes ahead of the field and one round from history.
So what was the dinner table topic the night before?
"Boys. Boys definitely came up," she said.
Hey, she's an LPGA winner. But she's still 16.
The Floridian closed with a 2-under 70 Sunday to win the Navistar LPGA Classic, beating Tiffany Joh by five strokes to finish at 17-under 271.
Thompson shattered the age record for winning a multiple-round tournament held by Paula Creamer, who won in 2005 at 18. Marlene Hagge was 18 years and 14 days old when she won the single-round Sarasota Open in 1952.
The victory brought a piece of history and $195,000.
"This has been my dream like my whole life," Thompson said. "It's the best feeling ever."
Thompson, who turned 16 in February, led by five strokes entering the final round and built that to seven through 10 holes at the Robert Trent Jones Trail's Capitol Hill complex. Then came the teen's only big lapse on the pressure-packed day, bogeys on the next two holes that allowed Joh to surge within three strokes.
Thompson erased any concerns of a collapse with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17, and then the celebration and the kind words began.
"Paula Creamer came up to me and said, 'If anybody was going to change the record, it should have been you,'" Thompson said. "That meant a lot."
Cool under pressure most of the day, Thompson and her father, also her caddie, couldn't contain broad smiles as they approached the 18th green with the win, and a spot in LPGA history, in hand.
"It's just awesome watching your kid do something like this, but it is very nerve-racking, though," Scott Thompson said. "This is a very special day.
"It was an unbelievable feeling to hear people cheering your kid like that. A very proud moment."
Thompson said her dad told her he was "going off to the side, because I might cry."
The home-schooled teen from Coral Springs, Fla., tapped in for par, hugged her father and got a celebratory dousing of bottled water over her head from Joh.
Now, the question is will she be granted LPGA Tour membership? Thompson will have to petition for an exemption of the 18-year-old age requirement.
The LPGA already granted her petition for qualifying school, and she won the first stage by 10 strokes in July with two more to go.
"We haven't even really talked about that yet," Scott Thompson said. "We'll worry about that as it comes, so we'll see."
LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan didn't seem inclined to give her the equivalent of a qualifying school GED.
"Should Lexi qualify for LPGA membership via her Q-School performance, she will be an LPGA member for the 2012 season," Whan said in a statement after the Navistar LPGA.
Veteran Juli Inkster thinks Thompson is ready for membership socially and as a player.
"It's kind of silly, isn't it?" Inkster said. "I think it makes us look bad, too. Now, you have to go to qualifying school? To me, that's silly."
In the meantime, she's still a kid having fun. She spent the evening before the tournament at Outback Steakhouse with fellow teen golfer Janie Jackson talking about boys and teenage topics.
Joh, who opened the day seven shots back, finished with a 68 after closing the gap with four straight birdies starting on No. 12. Her previous best finish was 12th at the CN Canadian Women's Open.
Angela Stanford shot a 66 to surge into third place at 11 under, posting three sub-70 rounds after an opening 73. Brittany Lang (67) and Karen Stupples (68) were 10 under.
Meena Lee, who opened the day five shots back in second, finished with a 73 and tied with Stacy Lewis at 9 under.
Thompson got a little relief from the pressure, laughing along with Joh after her tee shot rolled inches to the right of the hole on the par 3 No. 16.
She birdied to push her lead back to four strokes, acknowledging the fans with a brief grin and a tip of her visor.
"When it goes from seven to three in four holes, who isn't going to worry?" Scott Thompson said. "Tiffany was playing great.
"Lexi said, 'I think I'm going to have to make a birdie or so coming in.' It turned out she made two."
Thompson closed with a tap-in for par and a drama-free finale.
She had flirted with history before. Thompson shared the 2009 Navistar LPGA lead after two rounds as a 14-year-old amateur. In May, she entered the final round at the Avnet LPGA in Mobile tied for the lead, but dropped to 19th with a closing 78.
This time, she built such a cushion that bogeys on Nos. 11 and 12 only cut her lead to five strokes over Lang and Lee. Thompson recovered with tap-ins for par on the next hole and No. 15 and coasted from there.
Thompson sailed through the first nine holes with one birdie and a bogey. Only once did she flirt with serious trouble, when her approach shot sailed well over the hole and within a couple of feet of a downhill slope that led to bunkers.
No problem. She two-putted for par and then made an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 8.
Thompson said the jitters never got too bad.
"I was definitely a little nervous but they were controllable," she said. "Once I hit the first tee shot I was like, 'All right, I'm good.'"
Rose's third career PGA Tour win came at just the right time. He was at No. 34 in the FedEx Cup when he arrived at the third playoff event — only the top 30 from the 70-man field at Cog Hill would advance — and he moved to No. 3 with the victory.
The top five — Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Rose, Luke Donald and Matt Kuchar — at East Lake next week only have to win the Tour Championship to collect the biggest payoff in golf.
There were plenty of consolation prizes to go around.
Senden played bogey-free, an amazing feat in the rain on a tough course, and closed with a 70. He moved from No. 55 to No. 9 in the FedEx Cup, and his spot in the Tour Championship effectively assures him a spot in all four majors next year.
"That chip-in definitely turned things around for him," Senden said.
Geoff Ogilvy had a 69 to finish the week with four rounds in the 60s. He had a decent chance of winning on the back nine, although it didn't take long for the Australian to appreciate the benefits that came with third place.
At the previous playoff event, Ogilvy had to made birdie on the final hole just to advance to the BMW Championship at No. 69. Now, he is on his way to Atlanta for the Tour Championship, and he moved high enough in the world ranking to assure himself a spot in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne, where he has a home off the 14th fairway.
"I'm glad I played well," Ogilvy said. "I just holed some putts for three days, and hit the ball well today on the hard day."
Indeed, there was more than one cup at stake on Sunday.
Rose captured the most important trophy. He finished at 13-under 271 for the biggest win of his career, worth $1.44 million. The BMW Championship also was the final event for the top 10 players to qualify for the Presidents Cup.
Despite all the possibilities for the U.S. team, there was no change except in the order.
David Toms went from No. 10 to No. 8 with his tie for 10th. The heartache belonged to Bill Haas, who was tied for third at the BMW going into the final round. He was poised to claim one of the 10 spots until he posted a 42 on the back nine and shot 78, when a score of 75 would have been just enough.
"I knew if I played well, something good would happen," Haas said. "And I knew if I played bad, nothing would happen."
It's the second straight year that Haas walked away from Cog Hill feeling empty. A year ago, he finished 31st in the FedEx Cup by a mere seven points.
Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk nailed down the last two spots for the United States. The other seven who had locked up spots were Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Nick Watney, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson.
Nothing but the order changed for the International team, too. Its list is based on the world ranking. Ogilvy, who was narrowly No. 10, moved ahead of Ryo Ishikawa to No. 9. The other eight players are Jason Day, Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, K.J. Choi, K.T. Kim, Retief Goosen, Ernie Els and Y.E. Yang.
Captains Fred Couples and Greg Norman will make two picks after the Tour Championship. Couples already has said Tiger Woods will be one of his picks.
For the FedEx Cup, Bo Van Pelt nailed down the 30th spot by a comfortable margin over Martin Laird. Even so, there were some tense moments. Despite difficult conditions, Camilo Villegas made nine birdies and had the best round of the day at 66. But he made bogey on the 18th hole, walked off the green to check a scoring terminal and slammed his fist onto the table. Turns out it didn't matter.
The final round proved relatively flat, with only three players having a serious chance throughout the day. Rose was headed for a runaway when he birdied the sixth and seventh holes to reach 14 under, giving him a five-shot lead over Senden.
Back-to-back birdies for Senden around the turn, along with a bogey by Rose at the par-5 ninth, made it tight at the top.
Rose did well to save par on the 13th and 14th holes — this after a two-putt par from 80 feet on the 12th — before running into trouble on the 15th by hitting his tee shot into the trees for bogey.
Senden kept the pressure on him with pars, and twice had putts to take the lead that just missed.
Ogilvy, playing in the group ahead of Rose, ran off birdies on the 13th and 14th to get in the hunt. Ogilvy had good looks at birdie on three of the last four holes and failed to convert.
"It was a slightly flat feeling when you look back because I might have had a chance to win the tournament," Ogilvy said. "But who am I kidding? It's my best tournament in months."
Donald, the world No. 1 who opened with a 75, closed with a 68 and finished alone in fourth.
The best part for Rose was walking to the 18th green without worry. After all that struggle, he reached the scariest hole at Cog Hill and put together his best two shots for a simple par.
"Wobbled a little bit but managed to get it done," Rose said. "And it was an amazing feeling making two great swings at the last and being able to enjoy the walk up there."