Lexi Fires 63 in Defense of Her Navistar LPGA Classic Title

Lexi Thompson got the attention of the golf world in 2011 when, as a 16-year-old prodigy, she forged a five-stroke victory in the Navistar LPGA Classic.

The Coral Springs, Fla., native must have an affinity for the Senator Course at Capitol Hill - a part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail - as she opened with an immaculate nine-birdie 63 for a two-stroke lead in the 2012 edition of the $1.3 million, 72-hole event, which started Thursday in Prattville, Ala.

"It feels amazing to be back here," Thompson said before the start of this year's tournament. "It was a great experience, especially having my dad (Scott) on the bag caddying for me. I can't even describe the feelings coming up the 18th hole, it was just so overwhelming just to experience all the fans cheering for me coming up 18."

The 17-year-old went out this year with five birdies on the front nine for a 5-under 31, then tacked on four more birdies on the home half to go up by two over South Korean Hee Young Park and American Lizette Salas.

'"It feels really good getting a first round of 63 under my belt, but you just have to take it one shot at a time," Thompson said Thursday afternoon. "Can't get ahead of yourself in this game, so just going to hope to play like I did today for the next three rounds."

The field isn't one of the best of the year on the LPGA Tour. Only three of the top-10 women players in the world - including No. 1-ranked Yani Tseng and No. 3 Stacy Lewis - are entered. Among those not playing is Jiyai Shin, who's won the past two events - the Kingsmill Championship and British Women's Open, the latter by a record-breaking nine strokes.

"I'm still trying to get over the jet lag from last week and figure out what time it is and where I'm at," Lewis explained on Wednesday. She has three consecutive top-10 finishes.

Tseng opened with a 71 while Lewis shot 66 for a tie for fourth after 18 holes with fellow Americans Wendy Ward and Amanda Blumenherst, South Korean Mi Hyang Lee and England's Karen Stupples.

Sharing ninth after 67s are Americans Angela Stanford, Sydnee Michaels and Dori Carter, along with Canadians Lorie Kane and Alena Sharp. Several players opened with 68, including Natalie Gulbis and Anna Nordqvist.

Michelle Wie matched Tseng's 71. For all the scores, visit http://www.lpgascoring.com/public/Leaderboard.aspx.