RANCHO MIRAGE, California — Lexi Thompson went after it at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, smashing driver on every hole she could. Michelle Wie reined in her power, hitting conservative fairway-metal stingers and only occasionally letting loose with the driver.
Thompson ended up jumping into Poppie’s Pond on Sunday in the traditional victory leap, while Wie was left to wonder about her strategy.
“I play this course very aggressively,” the 19-year-old Thompson said. “I didn’t want to change the way I played the last few days because my driver won’t get me in any trouble on a lot of the holes. So, laying back wouldn’t really make sense.
“The greens were a little firmer, so even with a wedge in your hand you had to play for quite a bit of bounce out. I figured the closer I could get, even if I was in the rough, I could get it pretty close to the hole.”
Thompson closed with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to capture her first major title on the LPGA Tour. She beat Wie by three strokes, birdieing four of the first nine holes and parring the final nine.
Wie birdied the final hole for a 71. She used her driver only four times, choosing to hit fairway woods on the other 10 driving holes — leaving her as much as 60 yards behind Thompson. When both hit 3-woods, Thompson also had the advantage.
“I stuck with my game plan and I think it was the right play,” Wie said. “Who knows? In hindsight you would do something here or do something there, make a putt there. That’s the way golf is. I just couldn’t get anything going today.”
Thompson finished at 14-under 274 at Mission Hills for her fourth overall tour victory.
She opened with a 73, shot a tournament-best 64 on Friday and had a 69 on Saturday to tie for the lead with Wie at 10 under. She had only one bogey — missing a 3-footer for par on the 18th Saturday — in her last 55 holes.
“When I had a bad hole, I’d just fight right back,” she said. “Or if I hit a bad shot, just know that I can get it up-and-down or get it on the green.”
Five years after she first played the event as a 14-year-old amateur, Thompson became the second-youngest major winner at 19 years, 1 month, 27 days. Morgan Pressel set the mark in 2007 at Mission Hills at 18 years, 10 months, 9 days.
“It has been an honor to play at this tournament so many years,” Thompson said. “Only being 19 and to win it is even the biggest honor ever.”
Thompson has three victories in her last 12 starts, winning in Malaysia and Mexico late last season. She also won the 2011 Navistar LPGA at 16 to become the youngest winner in tour history, a mark broken by Lydia Ko in the 2012 Canadian Women’s Open.
The 24-year-old Wie won the last of her two tour titles in 2010.