Prattville, AL – Jennifer Johnson birdied her final two holes under 65 and grab a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Navistar LPGA Classic.
Johnson, a tour rookie, has missed the cut at this event the last two years. Her best finish this year was a tie for 12th at the Canadian Women's Open, but that came after she missed back-to-back cuts. Johnson also missed the cut last week in Arkansas.
Sixteen-year-old Lexi Thompson opened with a six-under 66 and is alone in second place.
Becky Morgan and Alison Walshe share third at minus-five. Women's world No. 1 Yani Tseng, No. 2 Suzann Pettersen and Stacy Lewis are among seven players tied for fifth place at four-under 68 on the Senator Course.
Defending champion Katherine Hull carded a two-under 70 and is tied for 18th after the opening round.
Thompson was the leader most of the day until Johnson, who teed off in the next-to-last group, passed her. Johnson got going with a birdie on the first, but she gave that shot back with a three-putt bogey on the third.
After five straight pars, Johnson dropped in back-to-back birdie efforts on nine and 10.
"I fought my way through some good pars and then birdied nine and just got it rolling from there. And the eagle definitely helped on 15," Johnson said.
Johnson birdied the 13th, then holed out for eagle on the par-four 15th to jump to five-under.
"I was trying hit like a 150-yard shot," Johnson stated. "I hit my six-iron like I was trying to land it on the front. I thought it wasn't going to be enough. I was yelling at it to get up, and then it just kind of curved right in the hole and I was happy."
Johnson birdied the par-five 17th and made it two in a row to close out her round.
Thompson did all of her scoring in bunches. She birdied three of four holes from the third to quickly jump to three-under. Thompson parred four straight around the turn.
At the 11th, Thompson converted her fourth birdie of the round and came right back with a birdie on the 12th. She stumbled to a bogey at 13 to slip to minus-four.
The teenager, who has missed the cut in four of her seven starts this year, bounced right back with a birdie on the 14th. Thompson made it two in a row with a birdie on No. 15. She closed with three pars.
"I just played pretty consistent today. I dropped some putts, so that went for me," stated Thompson, who has finished inside the top 30 at this event each of the last two years.
NOTES: Johnson's tie for 12th at the Canadian Women's Open was her best tour finish...She has pledged to donate half of her earnings this week to the Wounded Warrior Project...With the Solheim Cup next week, the entire U.S. team is playing this week. Lewis heads that group and shares fifth place after one round, while Morgan Pressel is tied for 12th at minus-three. However, four of the team members -- Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie, who are both tied for 70th, as well as Christina Kim and captain's pick, Ryann O'Toole -- are in danger of missing the cut.