When it comes to Lexi Thompson, there is no shortage of Drive On spirit. The one-time preteen sensation who spent her life growing up in the glare of the public spotlight is living proof that life is not about whether you get knocked down, but rather what you do when you get back up.
Lexi knows how to get back. There is seemingly no end to the resolve in this woman.
On Sunday, after a disappointing 41 on the back nine left her one stroke out of the playoff at the U.S. Women’s Open won by Yuka Saso over Nasa Hataoka, Thompson got back up and stood strong.
“Yeah, of course it's tough,” Lexi said after her finish at The Olympic Club, a fabled venue that has had the best of legends like Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson, all of whom lost late leads in the U.S. Open here.
“I really didn't feel like I hit any bad golf shots,” Thompson said. “That's what this golf course can do to you, and that's what I've said all week. But overall, I'd be the first one to tell you that I hit some bad golf shots and I deserved it, but it's golf.
Lexi and the U.S Women’s Open have a long history. The first time she qualified for it was in 2007 at the age of 12. This was her 15th appearance in the championship and she’s still only 26 years old. That Thompson has already competed in 52 LPGA Tour major championships says a lot about the long and winding road she has traveled.
Since 2013, Thompson has been a consistently shining star for the LPGA Tour, winning at least once every year except the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Lexi has also finished in the top-10 in a major at least once every year beginning in 2013 and a remarkable 16 times overall, 11 of those top-five finishes.
The enormity of Thompson’s talent is proven by the fact that with 11 Tour wins, including the 2014 ANA Inspiration, it still feels like the best is yet to come for her. There could have been other major titles – there was the infamous four-stroke penalty in the 2017 ANA and a squandered final-round lead at the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open – but among life’s lessons learned by Lexi is the importance of looking ahead – not back.
In 2018, Thompson stepped away from the game in the middle of the season to reassess her priorities. She sought help to sort out her thinking process about life off the golf course as well as on it and returned to the game a better, more focused player.
That new maturity was on full display at The Olympic Club. Lexi has always played the game in fourth gear, attacking the golf course with every shot. But in this U.S. Women’s Open she maneuvered her way around, often hitting less than driver off the tee in order to avoid the penal rough and to gain the proper angle for her approach shot into the green. Her more mature approach to golf is a reflection of her new more mature approach to life.
“I've been working with John Denney,” she said about her mental coach. “I worked with him in 2016 and 2017 and now I'm working with him again. I just realized that I needed to change my mindset. Obviously, I needed to work on some technical things in my game, but the mental side, I think, was really getting to me. I was just taking it way too seriously and thinking that Lexi depended on my score.”
She displayed that new perspective while the wounds inflicted by The Olympic Club were still fresh.
“Yeah, of course it's hard to smile, but, I mean, it was an amazing week,” Thompson said. “Yeah, I played not so good today with a few of the bogeys coming in on the back nine, but the fans were unbelievable, hearing the chants and just gives me a reason to play.”
A large part of the magic of Lexi is that she plays the game not just for herself, but for her fans as well and for the LPGA Tour. She strives to leave the game better than she found it.
“It was just an unbelievable feeling to be out here and play this golf course,” she said. “I've never been out here, so it was a blessing, and I'll take today and I'll learn from it and have a lot more weeks ahead, a lot more years. I have a tournament next week, so we'll take it from here.”
Once again, Lexi Thompson took a punch. And once again, she got back up. Each time she gets off the canvass, Lexi is a little stronger, a little wiser. And each time she gets back up, it feels very much like the best is yet to come.