Lexi Thompson moves past 'nightmares' about ANA penalty, loss

RANCHO MIRAGE, CA - MARCH 27: Lexi Thompson of the United States talks to the media during her pre-tournament conference as a preview for the 2018 ANA Inspiration on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club on March 27, 2018 in Rancho Mirage, California. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images) David Cannon/Getty Images

Lexi Thompson moves past 'nightmares' about ANA penalty, loss

LPGA Tour

Lexi Thompson moves past 'nightmares' about ANA penalty, loss

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – It comes up almost every week. Well-meaning fans and pro-am partners telling Lexi Thompson how much they admired how she handled what happened here at the ANA Inspiration last year. Thompson draws strength from that kind of support. 

Tuesday at Mission Hills Country Club, a composed, smiling Thompson sat in a captain’s chair in the ANA press room and addressed the four-stroke penalty on the back nine Sunday that ultimately led to significant changes in the Rules of Golf. 

“That night was extremely rough,” said Thompson of the hours that followed the toughest loss of her career. “I was screaming, crying. You know, I’ve re-lived it for a while. I had nightmares about it. You know, I still occasionally do.”

Thompson, 23, cried on every tee shot that followed her encounter with rules officials after the 12th hole. She said it was the fans who allowed her to finish the way she did.

“I heard them chanting my name on every shot, every tee,” she said. “I heard them on the green chanting my name, and I was like, I have to finish strong for them.” 

Stacy Lewis, the last American to be ranked No. 1 and take LPGA Player of the Year honors, checked in on Thompson on the range after the press conference.

‘She seems OK with it’

“She’s seems OK with it,” said Lewis. “She seems like she has put it to bed and put it in the past.”

Last year’s performance at the ANA, Thompson said, was some of the best golf she has ever played. The Dinah Shore Tournament Course suits her eye. It’s a place the best driver in the game feels like she can attack, and the results are impressive. Starting with her victory in 2014, in which she played alongside Michelle Wie in the final pairing, she has finished no worse than seventh in her last four starts.

And this year, well, there’s added motivation, or as she put it, some “extra oomph,” behind her to play well. 

Monday evening, a who’s who in the women’s game gathered at the 18th green pavilion for the annual ANA Inspiration Past Champions Dinner. Thompson sat at the same table as last year’s winner So Yeon Ryu. When it came time for Ryu to take the stage to talk about last year’s playoff victory, one couldn’t help but wonder what was going through Thompson’s head.

As Thompson made her way around Mission Hills for the first time in a year, memories of the past popped into her mind. Only Houdini could make something so traumatic completely disappear. Still, Thompson did her best move on.

I mean, yeah, memories came up, but, honestly, I just had to let them go,” she said. “I had to go on. It’s the past. It’s 2018 and I’m ready for a new year, and everybody needs to just let it go.”

Strength through struggle

Thompson wasn’t the only who learned how strong she was from last year’s finish. Ryu, who was thrown in the midst of an awkward situation with the crowd not in her corner, said she gained confidence in how well she was able to control her mind.

The same could be said of Thompson, who not only rebounded on Sunday in an extraordinary fashion but carried that strength throughout 2017, putting together her best overall season to date.

“I’m just happy to be back in a good state of mind,” she said, “and I’m really looking forward to playing this week and seeing all the fans out there.”

There will be no shortage of support.

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