After finishing her first round early Friday morning and posting a 2-over 73, eleven-time LPGA Tour winner Lexi Thompson stepped on the gas on day two of the Shriners Children's Open, carding a 2-under 69 to fall just short of making the cut in her PGA Tour debut. The 28-year-old started the day on No. 10 and kicked off her round with a bogey but recovered immediately on the par-4 11th hole, hitting her approach shot from 151 yards to 4 feet and cleaning up the birdie. Thompson struck again on the par-5 13th hole, nearly finding the green in two and getting up and down for birdie, now sitting at 1-under on the day and 1-over overall.
After parring 14, she drove the green on the 296-yard, par-4 15th hole, two-putting for birdie to move to 2-under on the round and get back to even par for the tournament. She made three consecutive pars on 16, 17 and 18, the last of which saw her hit a 302-yard drive, her third-longest tee shot of the day. Thompson found the fairway with her drive on No. 1, hitting her approach shot to 23 feet and curling in the putt to move to 3-under on the round. Her drive on the next was again in the short grass, and she put her 187-yard second shot to 28 feet, draining the birdie to get to 2-under overall and sit inside the projected cut line with seven holes to play.
Thompson missed the green on No. 3, chipping up to six feet and making her putt for par, and made a routine par on the next to remain at 2-under with five holes to go. An errant tee shot on the par-3 5th hole resulted in Thompson taking a penalty, and she hit her third from the drop zone to five feet, making the bogey putt to drop her first shot of the day since the opening hole. She steadied herself with pars on 6 and 7 but stumbled again with a bogey on No. 8 after hitting it long and failing to get up and down, ultimately spelling the end for her chances at making the cut. A par on the last solidified her 2-under 69, leaving Thompson at even-par for the tournament, just shy of making the cut, a valiant effort from the major champion in her first appearance on the PGA Tour.
"I knew once I had made a few birdies in a row that I would be somewhat close, but I knew the cut line would keep on going lower and lower with these guys, especially with not that much wind out there," said Thompson. "I really tried to stay focused on my game and focused on my swing thoughts, picking small targets and staying 100 percent committed, and whatever happens, happens. I hit some great shots coming in, even on my 17th hole, No. 8, and just ran through. But it's a 2-iron, so I can't really expect too much."
Through 36 holes, Thompson averaged 301.2 yards off the tee and hit seven drives of 300 yards or more, the longest of which was 316 yards on No. 4 in the first round. She is the second woman in PGA Tour history to card a sub-70 round, joining Michelle Wie West, who did so twice in the Sony Open, and she gained over a stroke with her putting across the two days.
While there are four regular-season tournaments left on the 2023 LPGA Tour schedule before the top-60 players are decided for the CME Group Tour Championship, Thompson will not compete again until the penultimate event of the year, The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican. She currently sits at 82nd in the Race to the CME Globe, 22 spots out of the top-60 cutoff, and will need more than a solid finish at Pelican Golf Club if she wants to tee it up at Tiburon. This week's impressive performance in Las Vegas, along with her solid play at the Solheim Cup, Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G and The Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, will surely bolster Thompson's confidence heading into what could be her final event of the year. And she'll look to feed off the momentum she has generated at both the Shriners Children's Open and in her past few starts as she works to qualify for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.
"Pelican will be a big week for me. I have three weeks off, so I'm going to take the first week and kind of slow down a bit and really get that downtime and relax a bit, but the next two weeks, I'll be training hard and working on a few things that I need to improve on, and going into Pelican, that's a big one, so we'll see," said Thompson. "(I will) work on the few things that I've been working on in my golf swing and really fine-tuning those. I think I'm moving in the right direction, just focusing in on the positives and how I've played the last few weeks and building on that. Not over-grinding, but still fine-tuning."
Despite just missing out on playing the weekend at TPC Summerlin, Thompson definitely met her goal of inspiring the next generation of young golfers this week. Hundreds of fans came out to watch the 28-year-old compete in the Shriners Children's Open, many of whom were kids, and got to witness Thompson nearly make her first PGA Tour. But more importantly for the major champion, they got to see her chase her dreams and never give up, a message that Thompson really wanted to impart this week as she made history.
"Meeting some of the Shriners kids, ambassadors, was the highlight and being with them, giving a clinic, giving golf lessons and just hopefully inspiring them to go after what they want. That was probably the most special," said Thompson. "Of course, playing with the guys… I've always wanted to be out at a PGA Tour event and tee it up, but the biggest thing was seeing the kids outside the ropes and then meeting a few of the Shriners ambassadors.
"Seeing the people out there and hearing the cheers and seeing all the little kids, that's what I play for. I think I said that on the last hole, a little kid screamed out, 'Go Lexi, you're great,' and that just makes my day. No matter what I'm shooting, I could shoot 80, and they'd be like, 'You did great.' That's what it's all about, just inspiring."