Lexi Thompson continues healing process with CME Championship victory

NAPLES, FL - NOVEMBER 18: Lexi Thompson celebrates with her caddie and brother, Curtis Thompson, after winning the LPGA CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club on November 18, 2018 in Naples, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Lexi Thompson continues healing process with CME Championship victory

Digital Edition

Lexi Thompson continues healing process with CME Championship victory

NAPLES, Fla. – Winning isn’t everything, but it sure can heal the hurt. For a player such as Lexi Thompson, who puts everything she has into winning to please loved ones and strangers alike, a four-stroke victory in the LPGA’s CME Group Tour Championship on Sunday poured salve on the wounds that had robbed her joy.

Thompson’s 10th career win on tour might turn out to be the most significant.

“It’s helped out tremendously with my attitude just in general,” said Thompson, “just showing the hard work that I’ve been putting in these last – well, this whole year really … just to see that pay off in these four days was huge for me. I’ve been waiting for that moment.”

One year ago Thompson’s family looked shell-shocked on the 18th green at Tiburon Golf Club. She’d won the $1 million bonus, but a short miss on the 72nd hole kept her from claiming spoils that money can’t buy.

Thompson tried push away the pain – her mother’s battle with cancer, the four-stroke fiasco at the ANA Inspiration, the 2-footer at CME, the snide comments on social media.

November 18, 2018; Naples, FL, USA; Lexi Thompson carries her dog Leo after winning the CME Group Tour Championship, the final event of the LPGA Tour, on Sunday, November 18, 2018, at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples. Mandatory Credit: Alex Driehaus/Naples Daily News via USA TODAY NETWORK

Lexi Thompson celebrated her CME Group Tour Championship victory with family, friends and Leo the dog on Sunday. (Alex Driehaus/Naples Daily News via USA TODAY Network)

But the mountain of disappointment and expectations became too much to bear. She took a break and sought the help of a therapist.

“You know, this year I think it was just an eye-opener,” Thompson said. “It all kind of hit me this year what happened last year. I kind of just tried to brush it off last year and just play through it because I didn’t really have an option. And I played great golf. I don’t know how, but I managed to.

“All kind of hit me this year and just kind of got me really down. I needed that time off to be with my family, to figure out things that made me happy off the golf course.”

When she came back, a winless Thompson slowly started to return to her roots.

She cut down on the heavy lifting in the gym, sticking mostly with cardio. In Portland, she started aiming down the right side and hitting a stock draw.

Days before coming to Tiburon, Thompson put the Cobra King F9 driver in play. She went back to her old Bettinardi putter and put brother Curtis on the bag. It was throwback week for Thompson, and it paid off handsomely.

“He kind of saved me out there,” she said of Curtis. “I had so much fun. He was just keeping me laughing. Even when I struggled on a few holes today he was like, ‘It’s OK, you got this. You’ll hit a great shot. Come on, Lexi. You’re the best. You got it.’ That’s just what I need to hear. To hear it from him, it’s amazing.”

Curtis cracked lines from movies like “The Hangover” and “Wedding Crashers” when he sensed nerves creeping in. Thompson owes her length to the two big brothers she chased off the tee as a schoolgirl. With only two years separating the two, Lexi and Curtis fought frequently growing up, as siblings do, but now enjoy a through-thick-and-thin relationship.

Curtis gushed over what he saw from his little sister early on in Naples. She missed only three greens and four fairways over 54 holes. She refused to play afraid.

“The first two days, the best golf I’ve ever seen,” he said on Saturday. “I’ve never seen it better.”

On Sunday, nerves came into play midway through the front nine for Lexi but Curtis said the birdie on No. 8 flipped a switch.

“She stopped thinking about what she couldn’t do,” Curtis said. “And started thinking about what she wants to do.”

Lexi Thompson’s father, Scott, had to flash his driver’s license to get up to the crowded 18th green. Dozens of friends and family were on hand all week, with a crew of 20 enjoying dinner each night.

Nelly Korda got within two strokes on the back nine but drifted away. Once Thompson hit the fairway on the 18th, she felt like she could breathe.

Victory. At last.

“This is huge for her,” Lexi’s father Scott said. “Too many bumps and bruises this year. I don’t think you could’ve asked for a better ending.” Gwk

Latest

More Digital Edition
Home