A ‘good chance’ to make Shriners cut? Lexi ready for Tour debut

A ‘good chance’ to make Shriners cut? Lexi ready for Tour debut
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Lexi Thompson had plans this weekend, but when tournament organizers for the Shriners Children’s Open extended her an invite a couple weeks ago, she didn’t mind changing them.

“It was basically an automatic yes,” Thompson said.

Thompson will make her PGA Tour debut beginning Thursday at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas as the 28-year-old LPGA star is set to become just the seventh female to ever compete on the biggest tour in the world.

Before Thompson, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley, Michelle Wie West and most recently Brittany Lincicome (2018 Barbasol) teed it up on the PGA Tour. Zaharias is the only one of that group to make a cut, doing so twice, at both the Tucson and Phoenix opens in 1945.

“I don’t really see it as a challenge,” Thompson said Tuesday. “Coming into a PGA Tour event, being a woman, is a challenge. I just got to play within myself. I know my game. Don’t try to push anything. … Try my best on every single shot, 100% committed. Whatever happens, I can only control my emotions and my game.”

Thompson is in the midst of, statistically speaking, her worst season. Prior to the Solheim Cup, she missed 7 of 10 cuts on the LPGA before rattling off two straight top-10s since the matches in Spain.

When asked about the criticism targeted at her exemption, Thompson smiles.

“It’s all good,” she says. “I mean, I expected it.”

“I’ve been under the I’ve been under the microscope, I guess, since I was 12 years old,” added Thompson, who turned pro at age 15, three years after becoming the youngest ever to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open.

Her key to handling the pressure? “Just believing in yourself and not listening to outside expectations or any people that judge you.”

Thompson carries five wedges instead of a 5-iron most weeks on the LPGA, where she hasn’t had the opportunity to hit many drivers in recent starts. That won’t be the case this week on a 7,255-yard TPC Summerlin layout.

With her 5-iron back in the bag, Thompson says of her gameplan off the tee: “It’s driver on every hole. … Fire away, and swing.”

Thompson ranks No. 12 on the LPGA in driving distance this season, at just over 270 yards per poke. To compare, Brian Stuard is last among 186 eligible PGA Tour pros at 272 yards per drive. But Ben Griffin, who played a practice round with Thompson on Tuesday morning, believes Thompson isn’t a surefire bet to miss the cut this week despite being about 20 yards shorter than he (300.9 yards) and Michael Kim (303.7) off the tee.

“I thought she was striping it,” Griffin said. “She was hitting it closer than us on a few holes, which is to be expected. She has a ton of talent, and she can handle it out there. It’s a little different out here being a little firmer, a little different conditions, but I think she’s adjusting well, and she played awesome today, and I think she can really compete this week and have a good chance at at least making the weekend.”

For Thompson, a made cut would rank “definitely at the top of my accomplishments.”

A missed cut, however, wouldn’t ruin her week.

“Good golf is a successful week,” Thompson said. “If I can leave here inspiring others, and especially the kids, the Shriners kids, that’s what it’s all about and what this tournament is. There is more than just playing golf. If I can inspire one individual, I would feel like I’m making progress. … We’ll see where the golf takes me. I know I’ve played well the last few weeks, and just take one shot at a time. Whatever happens, it’s a blessing to be here.”

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