Sunday a sign for Lexi, breakthrough for Lewis

Lexi Thompson's second-place finish Sunday at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic offered quite a glimpse of her maturity as a golfer.

Last year at the event, a then-16-year-old Thompson carried a share of the lead into the final round before stumbling to a six-over 78. She was trying to become the youngest winner in tour history, but ended in a tie for 19th.

One year later, Thompson turned in a stellar weekend, shooting six-under 66 in the third round to give herself a chance on Sunday. She put the pressure on Lewis with a bogey-free round that included an eagle chance at 16, where she knocked her second within eight feet.

Thompson two-putted for birdie to grab a share of the lead, which Lewis eventually regained on her way to win.

But while Thompson wasn't able to take the victory, her performance was remarkable. She began Sunday five strokes behind Lewis and nearly caught her, and that kind of display is what's important, nevermind her finishing place.

We already knew Thompson had the ability to earn titles on the LPGA tour. She did so last September at the Navistar LPGA Classic, becoming the youngest winner in the tour's history by a mile.

But that victory was a different scenario -- Thompson shot a final-round, two- under 70 and won by five shots. Sunday offered a look at Thompson in a come- from-behind setting, in a pressure situation, and by all accounts, she delivered.

With that said, it's easy to make too much of Thompson's performance. Because she's an American golf phenom, she's watched very closely and every tournament could be used to make judgments of her ability.

But she is still only 17 and her game is still developing, and it's crucial to view her progress through a panoramic lens.

The progress won't always be predictable or quick. Since turning professional in 2010, she has missed a number of cuts, challenged for a number of wins and had a number of middle-of-the-field finishes. She crumbled while holding a final-round lead, earned a runaway win and nearly pulled out another.

Thompson is a golf phenom, and because of that, she's scrutinized. But every event can't, or shouldn't, be used as a basis for judgment.

What they can do, however, is offer a new look at Thompson's developing abilities. Sunday was one of those days, and it inspires confidence that, as her career progresses, she'll more frequently be the one in the winner's circle.

Let's not ignore Lewis, either.

The 27-year-old was a surprise winner at last year's Kraft Nabisco Championship, which sent her career in a completely new direction.

But a weird thing happens when a golfer's first career victory comes at a major. It's almost like they're expected to win more, to validate that initial title and ensure the value and importance of golf's majors. After all, if just anybody could win a major, they wouldn't be so special.

Or maybe the thinking goes that because it takes considerable talent to earn a major championship, those who do should be able to win more.

Either way, Lewis' career drew a lot more attention following the 2011 Kraft Nabisco. So while she turned in numerous top-10s and was a consistent contender, she still faced pressure to win again.

She broke through on Sunday. It's pretty odd to say that the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic was a breakthrough win for a player who had already won the Kraft Nabisco, but Lewis acknowledged in a TV interview that she was glad to get the second victory out of the way, and maybe that will free her mind. At this point, it'd be foolish to count out that possibility.