Evian Championship: Lexi Thompson shines throughout hectic summer

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Evian Championship: Lexi Thompson shines throughout hectic summer

LPGA Tour

Evian Championship: Lexi Thompson shines throughout hectic summer

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EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France – Lexi Thompson typically plays one of the smaller schedules on the LPGA. Last year she competed in 20 events, ranking 94th on tour. Ariya Jutanugarn, by contrast, competed in 28, as did Brooke Henderson.

The 2019 schedule has put Thompson in never-before-seen stretches of golf. She played five in a row over the summer, a run that included one victory and two runner-up finishes. The 24-year-old is now in the midst of a four-tournament stretch that ends with back-to-back majors.

Heavy stuff for a player who typically keeps her tournament runs to two or three at a time.

TEE TIMES: Evian Championship first round tee times
WATCH: Viewing information on the Evian Championship

“It’s a lot on us,” she said, “but if you’re playing well it’s a great opportunity.”

Thompson, who took Monday off, appeared to be in a fine mood at the Evian Championship. She’s striking the ball well, particularly with her irons. The claw grip is becoming second nature. She’ll need it on these quirky and undulating Evian greens.

Thompson had a run of three top-10 finishes at the Evian from 2013-15, including a second and a third. At the 2016 Women’s British Open at Woburn, she tied for eighth, her best finish to date in the championship. The firm, parkland course suited Thompson, who recalled her 3-wood running for miles.

Lexi Thompson plays her shot from the third tee during the final round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

At Evian, Thompson hits driver on seven holes along with a mixture of 4-iron, 5-wood and 3-wood. She’ll take her 47-degree wedge out of the bag this week.

Scott Thompson calls his daughter’s decision to change putting grips to the pencil grip, a variation of the claw, “the best change we’ve ever made.”

She was still putting with her eyes closed earlier this year.

Changing to the claw grip saved her brother Curtis’ game, and for two years he tried to convince his sister to try it too. The biggest improvements, Scott said, are the amount of 3-footers she knocks in with regularity as well as 20-footers.

Thompson and her caddie, Benji, have also found a nice groove. This is their third stint working together, and it’s his personality that proves most key to Lexi.

“He keeps her loose,” said Scott.

The rough at this year’s Evian is tougher than ever and defending champion Angela Stanford said she’s surprised that the fairways are softer than expected in July with the greens still firm.

And while the Evian and British Open were back to back for years, they weren’t both majors.

Lexi Thompson warms up on the practice range before the third round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. (Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports)

“You have people that are playing really hard and there’s so such emotion that’s going to go into this,” said Stanford.

Those who have experience on both courses certainly have the advantage of being able to pace themselves both physically and mentally these next two weeks.

It will be a grind, no doubt. But with a bevy of Hall of Fame points up for grabs, Thompson’s profile could reach even greater heights in short order.

Besides, there will be plenty of time to rest in the coming months. She’ll play the CP Canadian Women’s Open and the Cambia Portland Classic before the Solheim Cup followed by an exhibition in South Korea and the Indy Women in Tech event.

And as of now, that will be it before the CME Group Tour Championship. She plans to skip the four events in Asia.

A smaller schedule works well for Thompson. But the most hectic summer of her career has the potential to be something special.

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