Salas Could Blow it Wide Open on Sunday
What are the most important things, I wonder, that make a golf tournament what it is? What sets it apart from other events on the tour? What makes it a catch phrase? One might consider the age of the tournament, the marketing of its sponsors, and the beauty or interesting setting of its chosen course. Anything that makes a course or tournament distinct is bound to help. Did Bobby Jones or Mickey Wright ever win there years ago? That’s something prestigious that a person can look up and savor as nostalgia. If these are the necessary requirements, the Meijer Classic in Grand Rapids, Michigan is at a distinct disadvantage. But, the young Meijer Classic has something important going for it – Lexi Thompson, Lizette Salas, Alison Lee, and Kris Tamulis.
With an injured hand, Lexi has played three days of almost unbeatable golf, surging into a tie for the lead by the end of the second round. It looked like the kind of week just made for such a player. I’ve met Lexi, but didn’t know at the time that she includes boxing in her training, and injured her hand punching a reporter, just the thing every golf star would love to do from time to time, I’m sure. Three rounds of 69, 64, and 68. How do you beat that? Well, Lizette Salas did it. After a second day in which the press marked Lexi’s dominance, and covertly predicted her path to victory, the star from USC, only in her fourth hear as a pro, put two rounds of 64 into three days, and kept the third one several under as well – for a grand total of minus 16. If she shot another round like that, it would somewhere around 24 under – whoa!
I made careful note of Alison Lee’s re-emergence, which I consider more important than the first. She’s been in contention already, but the fact that she keeps coming back to the conversation means she’s providing the same consistency that Salas and Thompson have demonstrated. Play with that kind of ongoing level, and sooner or later, you’re going to put several great days together. Salas may have won the day on that point, at least this week, but in Lee, I see a presence, without a hint of fluke.
Kris Tamulis will find catching Salas as difficult as the others, who begin the fourth day at a four stroke disadvantage. This is not to say that Salas is a sure thing, but four strokes is a nice edge. Tamulis is a Michigan favorite, and native daughter who played all kinds of tournaments along the way in this region. The state would go crazy if she pulled it off. For now, let’s just give her credit for three rounds of contention in an upper Midwest birdie festival. In the second round, Lexi birdied six of the first eight, and Salas has done even better by putting like a demon.
This is, I believe, one of the most interesting tournaments of the year, and these four players have made it so. It couldn’t possibly do any harm to the Meijer Classic’s future. It seems like yesterday that I celebrated Salas receiving her first paycheck. Alison Lee is a total newcomer to me, and to most of us this year, but she came from an alma mater, so I pay attention. Lexi is Lexi – The boxing makes sense. Friendly as she is, the eye of the tiger is there. She has an inner ferocity that you wouldn’t want to see go ballistic on you. Tamulis? Everyone loves a hometown hero. And above it all, the Meijer Classic has brought us three days of high entertainment value. It’s a good start in achieving that history of distinction down the road.