Give Lexi Thompson credit.
She may have the strongest chin in women’s golf.
She took more than her share of setbacks in windy conditions during a tough weekend at the ShopRite LPGA Classic but kept punching back.
Thompson buried a clutch eagle putt at the 18th hole Sunday to overtake U.S. Women’s Open winner Jeongeun Lee6 and win her 11th LPGA title, her first this season. She has now won in each of the last seven years.
Thompson, 24, muscled a pitching wedge out of a “sketchy lie” from 190 yards in the rough at the 18th and then holed a 20-foot putt to separate herself from Lee6 in dramatic fashion. Thompson did so a week after enduring a frustrating finish at the Country Club of Charleston, where she watched Lee6 pass her to win the U.S. Women’s Open.
“It means the world to me to get this win here,” Thompson said. “I made my pro debut here in 2010.”
Thompson won with her new claw-style putting grip, which she put into play just last week, two days before the U.S. Women’s Open began. It’s a grip that looked Saturday as if it might be more a liability than a cure for what has ailed her for much of her career. Putting might be all that has kept Thompson from taking over as the game’s best player.
Midway through Saturday’s round, Thompson four-putted No. 1, her 10th hole, from 35 feet, and made double bogey. She three-putted from 2 feet there. With another miss, and a bogey at the 11th, she fell six shots behind Lee6.
And then Thompson rallied like hell.
“It’s a crazy, crazy game,” she said.
Thompson made an eagle and three birdies closing out to pull back to within two shots going into the final round.
Full-field scores from the ShopRite LPGA Classic
There was more resilience required Sunday at Seaview Hotel and Golf Club.
Tied for the lead with Lee6 early on the back nine, Thompson bogeyed the 12th and 15th holes.
“If I let it affect me, I wouldn’t have finished the way I did,” Thompson said.
Thompson rallied under pressure yet again. She stuffed her approach at the 16th to 4 feet to make birdie and added the closing eagle. It was enough to win with Lee6 making bogeys at the 13th, 14th and 15th holes.
If Thompson really gets comfortable with this new claw grip, it could clear her path to finally ascending to No. 1, as she has now solidified her spot as the top American in the world at No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.
“I’ve put so much work into my putting, and then changing to the claw,” Thompson. “It’s a lot different, but I’m feeling very comfortable with it.”
Thompson’s weekend at ShopRite was a microcosm of her young career.
In 2017, she looked as if she were becoming the total package in women’s golf, putting together a dominant effort at the ANA Inspiration, until a controversial four-shot penalty derailed her in the final round, when she was hit with a double whammy for mismarking her ball in the third round. That year ended with more pain, when she missed a 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award and a chance to ascend to world No. 1.
The emotional fallout hit Thompson hard last year, and she announced she was stepping away from the game to take a “mental break.” She said she was dealing with the emotional toll of professional and personal setbacks, including her mother’s second bout with cancer and the death of a grandmother.
Last year, Thompson made public that she was working with a therapist to help her develop a life that’s about more than golf. She is proud of what she has overcome to win yet again.
“I really just want to show people that you can get through anything that life throws at you,” she said Sunday. “You just have to keep on pushing through it, with a positive attitude, and just keep going and not give up, because if you do, life will get at you and you’ll go downhill.
“Obviously, we’re all human. We have emotions. We feel sad, depressed and everything, going through those things, but you have to be strong enough to get through things. I think that’s the most important thing, to have the support team around you, the family, the friends, just to keep on picking you up and be there for you. I think that’s what helped me out the most.”