Lexi Thompson had a quick offseason, only going a week without her clubs between the 2019 CME Group Tour Championship and 2020 Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. She continued tweaking her swing along with her short game, work that led to a T7 finish at this season’s first event last week before journeying closer to her hometown in Boca Raton for the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio.
But according to social media this week, Thompson seemed to be in two places at once – spending the morning playing the back nine at Boca Rio and the afternoon in Orlando for the PGA Merchandise Show. The quick trip was thanks to World Golf Hall of Fame member Greg Norman, who picked up Thompson in his helicopter and piloted the aircraft to and from Boca Raton. The 11-time LPGA Tour winner and major champion said it was an experience she would never forget.
“We didn't talk too much, he was too busy actually driving the helicopter, which I didn't know but apparently he landed it, so it was pretty amazing. I was in the back, he was up there with the pilot. We had the headphones on so I could hear him talking with the pilot and everything,” said Thompson. “It was just amazing. It's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity so I was just very grateful he allowed me to join with him there.”
This week is Thompson’s first time playing close enough to her home on Tour, a feeling she said was “pretty crazy.”
“I've never had the opportunity to stay in my own bed. You finish a round and I get to go home. It's weird,” joked Thompson. “I get to go to my own gym. It's just a very relaxing feeling. It's really different. I can cook my own meals and just spend time at home with my dog, Leo, and spend time with my family, which is probably the best part. I'm really enjoying it.”
Tomorrow, she tees it up with Boca Raton native and major champion Morgan Pressel off No. 10 at 12:25 p.m. alongside the 2020 Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions winner, Gaby Lopez.
PRESSEL SISTERS TEE IT UP TOGETHER IN HOMETOWN
Boca Raton is more than just home for Morgan and Madison Pressel. It’s in their blood. This is where the sister duo was born and raised, where they first learned to play the game of golf.
On the eve of the inaugural Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio marking the LPGA Tour’s official return to Boca Raton for the first time since the 1989 Oldsmobile LPGA Classic at Stonebridge Golf & Country Club, it is a dream come true for the Pressel sisters. Morgan begins her 15th season on Tour and Madison is one of two tournament sponsor exemptions rounding out the 108-player field.
“The whole town is really excited, certainly the club here at Boca Rio and my community where I live at St. Andrews, just a 15-minute drive,” said Morgan, a six-time U.S. Solheim Cup team member. “Most of the people haven’t really been to a LPGA tournament. It’s exciting that it is right in our backyard and a lot of people are definitely looking forward to coming out. It is really nice to sleep in my own bed, too."
This week’s stop will be the third time Morgan and Madison compete against one another on the LPGA Tour, and the professional level for that matter. Madison earned co-medalist honors for the University of Texas at the 2013 North Texas College Shootout to gain entry into the Volunteers of America Classic that same year. She was also a sponsor invite for the 2014 CP Women’s Open.
“It’s such an honor to receive a sponsor exemption into the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio,” said Madison, who was unable to attend this afternoon’s press conference with Morgan due to flu-like symptoms. “It has been a long time coming, and I’m so excited that women’s professional golf is back in Palm Beach County. To be able to compete against the best in the world in front of friends and family is something I could only dream of before this event.”
Off the course, Madison and Morgan continue to support one another especially since the loss of their mother Kathy when they were 12 and 15 years old, respectively. Through the heartbreak and sadness, they have made a positive impact in the community. Whether it is with the Morgan Pressel Foundation or Morgan & Friends charity golf outing, they have shared the journey of helping to raise awareness and funds for patient care and research in the fight against breast cancer. Over the last 13 years, Morgan & Friends has raised nearly $10 million.
“In any way that we can honor her and, of course, help other people who are fighting breast cancer not have the same fate she had,” Morgan said. “We’re big on early detection and that’s why Mammovan’s is so important, which is out on the golf course this week. It is neat because some of the other players who hear about what we do but maybe don’t see it, get to see that behind the 17th tee. All we’ve been able to do here in Boca Raton to give back to our community is really a special thing.”
NOTABLE FIRST-ROUND GROUPINGS
LPGA Tour Hall of Fame member Inbee Park will tee off the first round with American major champions Danielle Kang and Angela Stanford off the first tee at 8:10 a.m.
Boca Raton native Jaye Marie Green will tee off the first round alongside four-time LPGA Tour winner Mi Jung Hur and 2019 CME Globe Champion Sei Young Kim off the 10th tee at 11:52 a.m.
Teeing off the 10th tee at 12:25 p.m. will be native Floridian major champions Lexi Thompson and Morgan Pressel alongside the season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions winner Gaby Lopez
DESIGNATED HOLE FOR AON RISK REWARD CHALLENGE
The season-long Aon Risk Reward Challenge will highlight the world’s best professional golfers as they tackle the most strategically challenging holes across both the LPGA Tour and PGA TOUR schedules. The player from each Tour atop the Aon leaderboard at the conclusion of the regular season will receive a $1 million prize.
The designated Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole at the inaugural Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio is the double dogleg par-5 16th playing 485 yards this week. Off the tee, the landing area is well framed by a lake on the left and fairway bunkers on the right. For those successful in finding the fairway, it will then require navigating the second dogleg with an approach shot into a protected, slightly elevated green. As bunkers and slopes make it hard to hold the green with a fairway wood or long iron, the risk is evident.
The key decision for players relates to the second shot. A well-positioned drive of 260 yards or more will leave less than 200 yards to the green, allowing an individual to go for it in two. If a player misses the fairway, adopting a three-shot approach for this par-5 will be the safer strategy and holding the green will be easier with a wedge.
For more information about the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, visit www.lpga.com/statistics/aon-risk-reward-challenge.
ANGIE NIEHOFF NOMINATED FOR LPGA’S AXA LPGA VOLUNTEER SERVICE AWARD
The AXA LPGA Volunteer Service Award is a program launched in 2018 to recognize exemplary volunteers at each LPGA tournament. This week’s award recipient is Angie Niehoff, who heads the Television committee and was instrumental in securing and recruiting volunteer committee chairs for the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio.
After the 2020 season, the name of one AXA LPGA Volunteer Award recipient will be drawn in a random selection. That winning volunteer’s tournament charity will be awarded $10,000 on behalf of AXA.
For more information on the AXA LPGA Volunteer Service Award, visit: http://www.lpga.com/tournaments/axa-lpga-volunteer-service-award