Nov 21

Lexi and Her Miserable, Horrible Great Year

Two-foot Putts are Everywhere in Life. It was a Real One for Lexi Thompson

Every one of us, at some time in our lives, has been faced with a two-footer, even those who have never set foot on a golf course (poor things). Sometimes the stakes aren’t nearly as titanic as we think they are, and once in a while…well, they’re pretty titanic. Regardless, the two-foot putt experience comes in thousands of variations from childhood on – the long fly ball to center field experience, prom or marriage proposals, one more question to answer on the test, etc. They’re all two-foot putts, and the feelings of pressure are the same. You can take the word of any veteran golfer on that point. We’ve all faced them, and we’ve all missed one or more of them. Lexi Thompson plays golf on a level of which most of us can only dream, but even she has missed them. So have all other professional golfers, women and men. It’s golf’s answer to our belief in a free lunch, or the “I’ve got this in the bag” trap.

That being said, I doubt that Lexi has ever had so many professional goodies riding on a two-footer as she did this week at the CME Group Tour Championship. First of all, Lexi Thompson is not a choker. Someone who gets to the top of the leader board that often and pulls it off that often, is not a choker. But, here is what was on the line. For winning the tournament, which meant two more feet of great golf after a week of it, prize money of half a million. Add to that one million as a bonus, Player of the Year honors for the LPGA, the Vare Trophy for the lowest average scoring record. – and oh yes, the number one ranking in the world. Now, missing that  putt didn’t cause the world to end for Lexi Thompson. Neither did it diminish her professional accomplishments amassed thus far. She still won the million dollar bonus for a lot of great rounds turned in this year.  She still won the Vare Trophy. No one who is a choker is ever going to win a trophy like that. However, the CME went to Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, who produced a birdie blizzard at the end, something she does from time to time – four of the final six holes. Player of the Year honors went to two South Koreans, So Yeon Ru and rookie Sung Hyun Park. I would have killed for a rookie year like that – in anything.

RANCHO MIRAGE, CA – APRIL 2: Lexi Thompson cries in a towel as she walks to the 18th green after her second shot during the final round of the ANA Inspiration on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club on April 2, 2017 in Rancho Mirage, California. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

Still, when it all comes down to it, a wonderful golfer who played well all year still had a bad one on its flip side.  The ANA Inspiration catastrophe probably still burns in the memory, as Lexi had a four-stroke lead, then had it all taken away in a four-stroke penalty – and all because someone with a phone and a tv screen phoned in a comment. And then, there was that two-footer. I’ve had a lifetime of real two-footers, and I’ve missed more of them than Lexi has. I swear that some sort of gravitational voodoo takes control of the ball just as it’s ready to drop in. Some alien parallel universe ray hits it just after it leaves the putter face. I’ve lipped it, charged it, misread it, died a centimeter short of it, and just plain missed it along the way. In fact, I’ve missed two-footers, and two-putted on the way back…maybe that’s three-putted – can’t remember.

Was Lexi’s putt straight in, or straight down? Did it have one of those carnival mirror bumps right at the edge? I know how my brain ceases function when it happens to me, but what does a brain like Lexi Thompson’s think? The verdict – we’re all human, and especially so in golf. Lexi Thompson is just a much better human than we are, but still human. Golf is still the big force in the room, not we golfers who are only invited guests. When these anti-miracles of physics happen to one such as Lexi, she may be shaking her head for a long time. But then again, she’s no choker, and will be back soon, scarier than ever.

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