WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Much of the focus in recent months on the LPGA had centered around Yani Tseng’s bad golf. Then a 15-year-old amateur shifted things entirely two weeks ago, winning in Canada. Lydia Ko isn’t here at Kingsmill, but there’s a 17-year-old whom we’re all familiar with on the leaderboard who has endured her own struggles the last two months, fairly quietly.
Lexi Thompson, fresh off of three missed cuts, carded a 4-under 67 at the revived, rain-delayed Kingsmill Championship. She’s still five strokes off the pace set by Jiyai Shin (tournament-record 62), but it’s Thompson’s first sub-70 round since June 22 at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic.
“It was a little frustrating; I’m not going to lie,” Thompson said. “That’s what you have to realize out on the LPGA: There’s always next week. You just have to work through all your troubles.”
Many followers of the LPGA (this scribbler included) thought Thompson would win her rookie year on the LPGA. She came close in April at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, finishing runner-up to Stacy Lewis.
While Thompson said she “expected” her record of youngest player to win on the LPGA (at age 16) would be broken, she might be alone in that category. Thompson said she has played with Ko several times, and if there’s one piece of advice she could give the young New Zealander about what to do next, it’s this: “She just has to realize it’s a pretty hard life. A lot of traveling out of the country, a lot of training, too. You definitely have to know what you’re getting into.”
Juli Inkster didn’t even take up golf until age 15. Inkster said she’d like to see Ko venture out and do other things, but added: “As a mom, it would be pretty nice if she could support me,” she said, laughing.
Does the LPGA have room for two players not yet old enough to vote?
“The way it’s going, we could have two 12-years-olds in a few more years,” Inkster said.
• • •
Christina Kim put together a fine string of birdies on Nos. 14-17 that brought a smile to her face.
“I’ve been down to Hades and back,” Kim said after her opening 66.
Kim wrote a jarringly honest essay July 18 about her recent bouts with depression. This raw excerpt summed up her troubles:
Depression. Thoughts of suicide. Irritability. The inability to smile.
As one of the most charismatic players on the LPGA, Kim wrote what was difficult to read. She had been hiding behind that inside-the-ropes smile. Kim said the missive was therapeutic for her, and she has been “floored with the feedback.”
“As vocal as I am, it’s hard to have the words actually come out of your mouth to say I’m fighting some issues; I’ve got some things going on in my life; I’m not very happy right now,” Kim said. “Asking for help is impossible.”
Kim said she came into this familiar setting in Williamsburg with a different mindset. So far, so good.
• • •
Short shots: It was a rough start for Michelle Wie, who bogeyed the last hole to shoot 75. She was in a familiar position after the round: On the practice green with her dad, B.J. Wie hit three fairways, 12 greens and needed 34 putts. … Yani Tseng and Suzann Pettersen skipped Kingsmill to participate in Pettersen’s charity event in Norway. Their heavy-hitting foursome includes retirees Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam. … And in other crowd-pleasing news, Natalie Gulbis shot 67. … A pregnant Allison Duncan (formerly Fouch) was spotted on the practice green. She was here as a first alternate but didn’t get in.