Lexi Thompson explains extended break from golf: 'I'm not just a robot out here'

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Lexi Thompson explains extended break from golf: 'I'm not just a robot out here'

LPGA Tour

Lexi Thompson explains extended break from golf: 'I'm not just a robot out here'

It’s difficult for most of us to imagine what it’s like to be extraordinary at a young age. To be driven since grade school to be the best in the world. To have everything in your life point toward a goal of greatness.

At the age of 23, the prodigious Lexi Thompson needed a break. 

It just so happens that it’s difficult for the game’s top American to take an extended break during summer golf without the world noticing. Too many majors to juggle and titles to defend. She’d have to explain herself, which she did on social media, saying that she needed to recharge and focus on herself away from golf.

“I’m not just a robot out here,” Thompson said during her pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship. “I need to have a life.”

Thompson, who skipped the Ricoh Women’s British Open during her month-long hiatus, returns to competition this week in Indianapolis, where she’s the defending champion. It’s the start of a three-week stretch for Thompson, who has yet to win this season.

It wasn’t long after Thompson competed in the Marathon Classic in Toledo last month that she knew she didn’t have what it takes mentally and emotionally to do battle at the British Open. She felt pain in her hand in Ohio, but said it left as quickly as it came. 

The decision to skip a major was not due to a physical injury. It was about all that had transpired in the past 18 months – the ANA Inspiration fiasco, her mother’s fight with cancer, her grandmother’s death. She had dealt with it all on a worldwide stage, and the culmination had taken a toll.

“You know, it was honestly just a buildup,” said Thompson. “Last year and a half, I have honestly been struggling a lot emotionally, and it’s hard because I can’t really show it. … It was just – it was so much to deal with. And I had to show that I was still OK and still play golf.

“And I don’t even know how I played that well, honestly. And I think it just kind of all hit me coming into this year. You can only stay strong for so long and hide it.”

Thompson took a short trip with friends during her month-long break and didn’t touch a golf club for two weeks. The nine-time LPGA winner said she’s still trying to work out what really makes her happy off the golf course. Her entire life, since age 5, has been molded around golf. Working hard is all she has ever known.

Thompson said her family, management team and therapists have helped her work through the events of the past 18 months.

One area that has always brought a smile to Thompson’s face is giving back to the military. Last weekend Thompson and sponsor Red Bull hosted a military appreciation day at Topgolf in San Antonio. Thompson’s agent, Bobby Kreusler, said a line had formed before the doors opened at 10 a.m. Thompson spent 3 ½ hours going bay to bay at Topgolf taking selfies and visiting with service members.

Red Bull also revealed new cans that feature Thompson’s face and signature. Thompson posted several images of the cans on her Instagram page.

With eight events left on her schedule, including the Evian Championship and International Crown, there’s still time for Thompson to make waves inside the ropes in 2018. But taking a mental break and speaking openly about her personal struggles might be the most significant message Thompson sends this season, particularly to youngsters who are following her lead.

“I’m not just a golfer,” said Thompson. “I need to have a life as well and enjoy it.”

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