Lexi Thompson went to work, and now the U.S. Women's Open is within reach

Jason Vinlove/USA TODAY Network

Lexi Thompson went to work, and now the U.S. Women's Open is within reach

USGA

Lexi Thompson went to work, and now the U.S. Women's Open is within reach

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CHARLESTON, S.C. – One week ago, Scott Thompson and his daughter Lexi were grinding hard back home in south Florida.

“It was awful,” said Scott.

Eight-hour days on the practice tee trying to not only correct what was wrong but make it feel comfortable too.

That’s the stuff nobody sees. Thompson might post a video on Instagram here and there of one swing. But it’s a blip of what it takes to become a champion.

Thompson is in position at the 74th U.S. Women’s Open to make that hard work pay off in the biggest way possible. She trails a couple of former Duke teammates ­– Celine Boutier and Yu Liu – by a single stroke at the Country Club of Charleston. She’ll be paired with good friend Jaye Marie Green, a fellow Floridian who is searching for her first LPGA title.

SCORES: U.S. Women’s Open

“I want her to have this one,” said Scott while standing by the 18th green late Sunday.

Lexi feels the same.

“It’s very important to me,” she said after posting a 3-under 68. “Being an American, the U.S. Women’s Open championship is the biggest tournament of the year.”

Back home on the range, Scott noticed that her hips were flying out too fast. The club would get trapped, and she’d miss shots out to the right.

“When Lexi hits it right,” he said, “she’s miserable.”

She closed down her hip a bit and lowered her right arm. It was an easy change, Scott said, but an odd one at the same time because making both changes made her feel like she was aiming too far to the right. It took a while for her to trust it.

Lexi Thompson waves to the gallery on the 18th green during the third round of the U.S. Women’s Open at Country Club of Charleston. Photo: Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

“We just pounded balls and pounded balls,” said Scott. “It got so solid. She got all her length back.”

But that was only half the problem.

After a rash of three-putts on Friday at Kingsmill, where she missed the cut, Scott asked his son Curtis to come out to a practice round on Tuesday in Charleston to help with her short game. Curtis had been in Raleigh playing in a mini-tour event and then tried to Monday-qualify on the Web.com Tour.

Scott stayed outside the ropes while Curtis went to work. She was moving too much when she chipped, causing a variety of misses.

“Curtis’ short game is phenomenal,” Scott said.

For more than two years Curtis has been trying to get his sister to try the claw grip. Scott believes the grip steadies her stroke, especially when the nerves are cranking.

Lexi has literally clawed her way into contention.

“It’s been quite the change,” she said, “but I feel very comfortable with it. I think it’s just something that over a matter of time it will just get better once I get the speed down with it, just more and more comfortable with it. … Putting is all confidence and being comfortable over it. I believe I’m there.”

In the first two rounds, Thompson didn’t make a birdie on the par 4s at this Seth Raynor gem. On Saturday, she played them in 4 under, highlighted by an eagle. She had 240 yards to the front edge on No. 15, a little into the wind. Thompson smashed a 3-wood and watched it bounce onto the green to about 30 feet.

“My caddie had a good read on this putt,” she said. “It was uphill so I knew I could be aggressive. Left the pin in, in case. And it was just a good shot and overall a little fist bump. I usually don’t do that, but (had to) pull it out there.”

Thompson got frustrated after a missed cut in Los Angeles in late April and took a break from social media. There’s nothing easy about being the top American on a tour that’s so stacked with worldwide talent that U.S. players seemingly can’t do enough to satisfy the fans at home.

The big one is well within her grasp. This could be the Sunday that Thompson erases some of the scar tissue that has weighed her down. A Sunday that fuels her for so many Sundays to come.

“This would go a long way for her,” said Scott. “Since ANA and all that stuff, just to get another major, which everybody has been waiting for her to get.”

The grind is always worthwhile.

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