Does ‘Lexi’ belong at Women’s British Open?
Sunday, January 23, 2011
SOUTHPORT, England – Alexis “Lexi’’ Thompson has reached a new level of celebrity: She’s getting press for not being in the field this week.
“She’s one of the better golfers in the world now, so it would be nice if she had been here,” said Laura Davies, when asked by the British media to weigh in on Thompson’s absence from the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
One week after Thompson nearly won the Evian Masters, the 15-year-old American had to sit out the year’s final major. She gave up an exemption she had earned through the Curtis Cup into the final qualifier of the British Open because she turned professional. The pre-qualifier conflicted with the U.S. Women’s Open, and the Ladies’ Golf Union denied her request for another exemption into Monday’s final qualifier. (Only LPGA members are eligible for the Jamie Farr qualifier.)
It is a shame Thompson isn’t here to follow up her terrific play in France, but she is only 15. The Brits and their tournament aren’t going anywhere.
Michelle Wie received a special exemption into the field here at Royal Birkdale when she was 15.
“I think we were in different situations,” Wie said of Thompson’s slight. “I think they granted me the exemption because I was an amateur. They didn’t grant me an invitation one year when I was a pro.”
There’s no shortage of opinions on whether Thompson and her family are doing the right thing.
Said Wie: “We just do things, make choices that we feel are right at the time, and you’ve just got to move forward and live with it, whether it’s the right decision or not.”
Davies said tour life isn’t normal at any age. Whether Thompson turns pro at 15 or 20, she’s still part of a “little circus traveling around the world. . . .
“If you’re good enough . . . what a waste not to have her,” Davies said. “Maybe she can win this week. How good would that be?”
Defending champion Catriona Matthew, who made “Super Mom” headlines last year for winning shortly after giving birth to her second child, thinks Thompson would be better off in school.
“She’s certainly proved she’s a good-enough player; there’s no doubting that,” Matthew said. “But 15 is maybe just a little too young to come out on tour. She’s still really only a child.”
Except now she’s a very rich child, having earned $314,842 in her past two events.
Thompson’s instructor, Jim McLean, had shoulder surgery several weeks ago and has spent an inordinate amount of time watching golf on TV. He liked what he saw in France, saying there’s not a question in his mind that Thompson is one of the top players in the world.
Before Thompson and her family left south Florida for France, they went to McLean’s house to discuss what she should take away from Oakmont. McLean offered pages of notes, honing in on her mental game and putting. He shared putting tips he’s learned from Brad Faxon, Ben Crenshaw and Jackie Burke.
“She was moving really bad on her putts,” said McLean, who likened her to the Rock of Gibraltar on her birdie at the 72nd hole of Evian.
McLean said the Thompson Camp hasn’t tried to petition the tour to play next year. At 15, Thompson, of course, is far too young to meet tour regulations. McLean, however, thinks it’s the LPGA that should approach Thompson about joining the tour. Only two players have been allowed to hold LPGA cards before their 18th birthdays: Aree Song and Morgan Pressel. Both were 17.
“(Alexis) has been a bit under the radar,” McLean said, “and I’m not sure why that is. . . .”
It’s a sentiment that is changing quickly.
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