MOBILE, Ala. – Lexi Thompson's last-round Alabama collapse a year ago could be a painful memory. Instead, the talented Florida teenager turned it into a growth experience.
Thompson is back on the Crossings Course at Magnolia Grove for the newly named Mobile Bay LPGA Classic starting on Thursday. In 2011, she shared the lead going into the final round and tumbled to 19th after a closing 78.
"I wouldn't change that Sunday for anything because I learned so much from it, from what I did wrong," Thompson said. "It prepared me for when I got in that position again. It helped me at Navistar and in Dubai. I learned a lot from it and now I'm I know a little more about how to finish it.
"It was disappointing. It took me a few days to get over it. But I learned so much from that Sunday by not winning, so much more probably than if I had won."
Veteran Maria Hjorth finished with her second straight 67 to win the then-Avnet LPGA Classic.
Thompson definitely built on the experience, enjoying an entirely different experience in her next Alabama event. She won the Navistar LPGA Classic in suburban Montgomery by five strokes in September to become the youngest LPGA tournament winner at age 16.
"It was a really good feeling, just getting that confidence and knowing I can win," said Thompson, who also won the Ladies European Tour's Dubai Ladies Masters in December. "It gave me the confidence going into every tournament, knowing that I can win and wanting that feeling again."
Twelve days after she wrapped up her first win, LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan approved Thompson's petition to become the LPGA Tour's youngest member. That remains her only career Top 10. She missed the cut last weekend at the LPGA LOTTE Championship in Hawaii.
Thompson won't have to contend with at least two top players this weekend in the $1.25 million tournament where the winner gets $187,500. Ai Miyazato, fresh from a win, and top-ranked Yani Tseng are skipping the Alabama event.
Tseng has won three of the first seven tournaments this year.
Hjorth returns to the site of her fifth LPGA victory after what turned into a fun family trip last year. Husband Shaun McBride carried her bag and then-2-year-old daughter Emily was on hand.
"It's always great to be back at a place where you've won obviously, and defending is always special," Hjorth said. "There's obviously a lot of memories that come back. You go out there and play and you see a lot of shots that you hit last year and you still see a lot of putts that you made from the tournament.
"And obviously a lot of great memories with my husband on the bag and my daughter ...so it was a nice family get together for the week. Having a win as well was even more amazing."
She's had a slow start in 2012, missing the cut in two of her six events. Her best finish so far is a 25th-place tie at the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore.
"I feel pretty good about my game and I've worked hard on it, especially my putting," Hjorth said. "Hopefully it will come together. I feel it's very close, and coming out here and having good memories, hopefully that will bring my game up a little bit and have a good finish."