KINGSBARNS, Scotland – It’s still in the early stages at the Ricoh Women’s British Open, but seeing Lexi Thompson’s name atop the board at a major takes most of us back to a strange day in the desert, when a bizarre four-stroke penalty led fans to start cheering her name.
Could this be the week something storybook happens for Thompson? A victory at the Women’s British would take some of the sting out of the ANA Inspiration. It could even make her No. 1 in the world. An American hasn’t reigned on the LPGA since Stacy Lewis in 2014.
Thompson says she’s done commenting on what happened at the ANA, but she’s “more determined than ever” to win a second major title. Thompson birdied five holes in a row on the back nine at Kingsbarns Golf Links to post a 4-under 68 on Friday, taking a share of the clubhouse lead with England’s Georgia Hall. The pair are knotted at 9-under 135.
Karen Stupples holds the record for the WBO at 19-under 269, set in 2004 at Sunningdale.
Thompson suffered back-to-back three-putts on Nos. 3 and 4, but credited caddied Kevin McAlpine with helping her stay patient and positive. The greens are running particularly slow this week.
“I knew it was a matter of time before I made a few birdies and just got on a roll,” Thompson said.
After the fifth or sixth question from the press about caddie McAlpine, Thompson joked that she should’ve brought him with her into the interview room. To be fair, Scottish reporters on hand started writing about McAlpine long before Thompson joined the LPGA. He’s a Scot, after all, who holds an amateur record at the Old Course. He also caddied for several years at Kingsbarns Golf Links and considers it home turf.
McAlpine, 33, was originally slated to start working for Thompson at the Ricoh Women’s British Open, but instead joined her in March at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. Rather than enter the week as strangers, Thompson describes her caddie of five months as a great friend.
“He’s been spot on every time,” said Thompson, who has held at least a share of the lead six times in previous majors.
While McAlpine has only know Thompson a short time, he has seen her through some of life’s greatest challenges, from the heartbreaker at the ANA to her mother’s recent bout with cancer. He now sees a more assertive, independent player than the one he first started working for last spring. Even in the little things like speaking up about where she wants to eat or what she wants to practice and for how long. Thompson, who first won on the LPGA at age 16, is growing up.
“I think she’s definitely taken more ownership of her game,” said McAlpine.
The perfectionist World No. 2 is also learning how to shrug off mediocre shots. McAlpine said a key part of his job is keeping the boss even-keel. To that end, they laugh a lot inside the ropes.
“I think that’s what makes our relationship so great out there,” said Thompson.
Toward the end of Friday’s press conference, Thompson was asked if she had kept track of Steph Curry’s play on the Web.com Tour and whether she was bothered about those headlines potentially taking away from this event.
“I would say I was keeping track of my brothers more than him,” she said.
Older brother Nicholas leads the Ellie Mae Classic after an opening 7-under 63. His round included a back-nine streak of four birdies, one shy of his sister’s efforts. Curtis Thompson posted a 71.
Competitive matches are the norm for the Thompson family back home in South Florida. Lexi describes them as “pretty intense.” Respect runs deep.
“Never play her one on one,” Curtis once said. “We’d just get (our) brains beat in quite honestly.”