Lexi Thompson eyes winning streak as LPGA tees off in Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor — When Lexi Thompson was finished dominating the field last weekend at the Kingsmill Championship, friends darted onto the 18th green and showered her with bottled water.
Thompson, a 22-year-old American star of the LPGA Tour, couldn’t get away but it hardly mattered, as water washed over her the smile was as big it’s ever been, far bigger than what might be expected of someone who has made winning a regular thing on Tour.
But considering just seven weeks earlier she had endured what might have been the cruelest runner-up finish in LPGA history at the ANA Inspiration, few were surprised at her elation.
Now, just a few days later, she’s at Travis Pointe Country Club for the Volvik Championship looking to make it two in a row while riding a wave of confidence.
“I worked extremely hard in the offseason, especially on my short game just trying to improve that a lot more and get more consistent off the tee,” Thompson said on Wednesday. “It's just been a lot of confidence, too. Golf is a lot mental, so just trying to stay positive out on the golf course and knowing my game is in a good spot and keep on working at it.”
To hear Thompson talk about confidence is impressive considering what she’s been through. Her game has been spot-on all season, complete with four top-five finishes in just eight events. But what happened at the first major of the season would have been tough for any player to bounce back from.
Thompson looked as if she was well on her way to adding major No. 2 to her resume on the back nine of the final round of the ANA Inspiration before everything came crashing down.
On the 13th hole, Thompson had a three-stroke lead before being informed that she was being penalized four strokes for an infraction on the 17th hole the previous day that was pointed out by a television viewer. Two shots for the penalty, two for signing and incorrect scorecard.
Thompson was devastated but fought through tears to birdie three of the final six holes only to lose in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.
However, as last week’s win proves, Thompson won’t allow the misfortune of one tournament to linger. The same way she fought back to force a playoff, she’s battled to get back on top.
“I just learned about how strong I am,” Thompson said of what the last few weeks have taught her. “I'm obviously a very determined person in general and after all that happened, I was out practicing. I was more determined than ever to fight back and come back and win. With winning last week, it just showed how much hard work I put in.”
She’s had her share of support along the way. The rest of the golf world — Tiger Woods included — took to social media after the ANA to back her up, but it’s been the growing galleries of Thompson fans that have really been important.
That day at Mission Hills Country club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the crowds almost willed her to a comeback. Last week in Williamsburg, Va., they were out in full force once again.
“I absolutely love my fans. They're amazing,” Thompson said. “I've definitely gotten a lot more since the incident, but they're always so supportive of me. Even if I struggle, they're there picking me up saying ‘Go get ’em,’ the next week or the next day. That means a lot to me. The fans do make the game, and to have them supporting me means the world.”
While Thompson will likely always be remembered for how things played out at the ANA, she has no intention of allowing it to define her career, let alone her season. Now an eight-time winner on tour, she has her sights set on more majors — she won the ANA in 2014 — and another spot on the Solheim Cup team this fall.
And after last week’s victory, she’s moved up to No. 4 in the world rankings. If a No. 1 ranking comes at some point, that would be great, she said.
However, Thompson doesn’t need that ranking to know where she stands.
“I think everybody wants that, everybody wants to be No. 1 and everybody wants to win every week out here,” she said. “It's not something that I put on myself. Like I said, every time I tee it up, all I can do is try my best, and I know I've put in the work and see where the results take me.”
Where: Travis Pointe Country Club, Ann Arbor
TV: Golf Channel – Thursday and Friday, 7-9 p.m. (taped); Saturday and Sunday, 3-6 p.m. (live)
Purse: $1.3 million
Defending champion: Ariya Jutanugarn