SOUTHERN PINES, NORTH CAROLINA | Lexi Thompson made her 16th U.S. Women's Open appearance at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, where she was the tournament's youngest qualifier at 12-years-old.
"Teeing it up here when I was 12 is the reason (I am) where I am today because I realized then that this is what I wanted to do. I have grown as a person and as a player and have learned a lot of things about myself, and it's just been a great experience," she said.
Lexi shot a seamless three-under 68, placing her T-6 after day one of the 2022 Women's Open presented by ProMedica.
"It was overall just a very steady day. I just tried to stay in the moment, making sure I committed to my routine and my shots out there, just being relaxed. At a U.S. Women's Open Championship, sometimes you have to aim away from pins, take your pars, and get off the hole, it's all about patience," she said.
Thompson is eager for redemption after missing the playoff round in the 2021 Women's Open and started the day out strong with an eagle on hole one.
"I ended up hitting a 3-wood off No. 1. I've been hitting driver, but it was a little bit downwind, and I ended up hitting the top of the hill there. I had 230 to the pin. Hit a 2-iron, and it landed perfectly right into the first cut and kind of killed the speed off it. I ended up about 20 feet short and made the putt. It was going a little firm, but I made it," she said.
Since 2007, Thompson has climbed to world ranking no. 6 and accumulated $12,414,244 in career earnings. Lexi will have the opportunity to finally add the biggest major of the season to her victory list and take home the largest winner's share in LPGA history sitting at 1.8 million dollars.
"I think the women's game, in general, has grown dramatically even since I turned professional, so seeing the sponsor's game that we have out here on the LPGA Tour, seeing the purse increases, the T.V. coverage, that's what we want. We want to grow the game and leave it in a better place," she said.
Thompson said her mindset about golf has developed over the course of her professional career and there is more thing to life than golf.
“Just honestly being around my family and friends when I do get the time at home or go on little vacations just to get my mind away from the game and unwind. I think sometimes that's more important than grinding on the practice facilities. It's more helpful to get your mind to relax and body a little time off.," she said.
Before her first U.S. Open appearance, Lexi said she didn't get nervous when she played golf. But reflecting 15 years later, Thompson admitted she was very nervous and happy it rained the entire time, so fewer people watched her as she made the debut.
"But it was just an amazing experience. I remember driving up with my parents, practicing my signature on the way, and just embracing it all," she said.
Lexi grew up on a golf course and started swinging a club at 5-years-old after watching her two older brothers play.
"It's kind of what I was born to do and grew up around. It's important for me to realize that it's not all my life. Yes, I get frustrated with the loss of events or troubled rounds, but you have to realize at the end of the day you still have the people that love you no matter what," she said.
Thompson said long-time instructor Martin Hall has been highly influential in helping her game throughout the ups and downs of her career.
"We've made a few swing changes, but besides that, just the positivity he brings to me every time I see him. He's always there to pick me up if I am struggling. He's always sending me YouTube videos of positivity and just reinforcing that. That's what you need as part of your team because golf can be a cruel game sometimes, so it's important to stay positive," she said.
Despite wanting to win, Lexi said she's grateful to be back in Southern Pines, and at the end of the day, it's just a game.
"It feels amazing. Being an American, being in my own U.S. Women's Open Championship, it's the highest honor, and seeing girls like that out here supporting us and supporting the women's game is truly an amazing feeling," Thompson said.