PINEHURST, N.C. – At 19, Lexi Thompson’s age is not an issue nor is it even a story this week.
It would have been different back in yesteryear, a 19 year-old participant would have been a big story, but now that an 11-year-old qualifier Lucy Li is teeing it up this week at Pinehurst No. 2 age really isn’t a huge story anymore.
For Thompson the story is more about a 19-year-old that actually can win this championship.
Thompson can become the first teenager to win two majors.
“If you’re good enough, you’re good enough to win,” Thompson said. “I don’t think it’s a matter of age, I think it’s a matter of talent and what you bring to the table.”
Thompson brings a lot to the table. In just her sophomore season on the LPGA Tour she has earned more than $1.2 million thus far and added her first major to an already impressive resume – the Kraft Nabisco Championship earlier this year.
The win in the desert was Thompsons’s fourth LPGA victory and made her the second youngest to win a major title next to Morgan Pressel, who won the Kraft at 18.
If she would win this week, Thompson would be the youngest to win the women’s American national championship, supplanting Inbee Park when she won her first tournament, the U.S. Open at Interlachen in 2008.
“The win at Kraft Nabisco helped me out so much,” Thompson said. “Getting a major win under my belt under that kind of pressure and those circumstances, but I’ve always imagined myself winning a Kraft Nabisco and it felt like my week when I got there.”
Like many this week Thompson will see Donald Ross’ masterpiece for the first time with the changes by the restoration duo of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore – but that doesn’t seem to fluster many of the women this week, including Thompson.
Learning from her early years of playing professional golf, Thompson is now adept at issues like travel and time management – not to mention her biggest hurdle, maturing physically.
Now Thompson comes to this Women’s Open with the length and game she needs to compete.
“I took most from that U.S. Women’s Open was playing with my other competitors and seeing their games and what I had to do to play on that level and improve on,” Thompson said of her first Open at Pine Needles, just down the road in Southern Pines.
“I was not long enough for that golf course, I had to aim for some of the mowed strips of the fairway and I had to grow. I had to get longer. I had to improve on my game. But that experience, I told my parents after that week, it was like, I know I can compete out there, just give me a few more years. I worked my butt off to get there.”
Thompson is certainly one of the favorites this week, with oddsmakers and fans alike. She can simply go by “@Lexi” on Twitter and her 5-foot-10 frame and long blonde ponytail are easy to spot anywhere on a course.
The question now is if the game she showed in the lush desert of Palm Springs can translate to the hard and fast conditions of Pinehurst?
“I look at it as just another tournament, I’m not putting any extra pressure on myself,” Thompson said. “I’m just going out, trying my hardest, focus on one shot at a time and relax in between shots and not let it mentally drain me at a U.S. Open.”