Lexi – Four Stroke Lead for Sunday
The women of the LPGA are a few weeks into their national tour of the tropics while they wait for the climate to warm up in more places. Their tournament schedule is a “Where’s Where” of all the places I haven’t been able to go yet, but plan to. This week, the venue is Thailand and the Honda LPGA, where Lexi Thompson has grabbed the event by the throat, and shows no signs of letting go.
Now, how old is Lexi these days? She’s just 21? It doesn’t really match up with the maturity she displays on and off the course. And while we’re on the subject, what’s 21 in Ko years? Pretty similar, I guess.
Lexi is not one of those problem prodigies who, in the minds of the fans, fail to live up to the adolescent hype that followed them into the business. She’s won six times on tour, and the seventh is looking pretty good. Not only that, but she would be the first American to win the event being played at the Siam Country Club in Chonburi.
I was able to catch up with her Saturday round, and thought that 8 under was a pretty good week’s work. Then I realized that her pristine 64 was only half the damage she’s inflicted on the field. Actually, she’s 16 under, with two fairly similar 64s, and a day off for good behavior 72, just to prove she’s mortal.
Lydia Ko isn’t there, but there’s no way to claim that her presence would make such a big difference with Lexi playing the way she is. The rest of the field is still pretty potent, and seven of the best golfers from China, Korea, and Japan, are chasing her.
So, what does a four-stroke lead feel like heading into Sunday? From all the golf I’ve watched, it feels like one of those “no woman’s land” margins, one that you could blow in a couple of holes, or one that would make you very difficult to catch, especially because you’re Lexi. I wouldn’t buy it for a moment if Lexi approached Sunday in a casual or overconfident manner. She’s too smart for that, and knows how the game works…or doesn’t. If she puts in another merely human 72, any of those folks around seven or eight under could blow a leader out of the water. On the other hand, they have to start the day with four to catch up before they start thinking about winning anything. That’s a different mindset altogether.
Lexi says she’s trying to have fun. Yeah, right. They don’t care about winning in the LPGA, so long as they’re having fun. The having fun line is a code word to one’s self to stay calm and concentrate, don’t let down, and don’t get distracted – don’t choke.
Calm is a good word for Lexi, because she hasn’t been the greatest putter in the last year or two, and putting is a lot of winning. She’s taken to putting with her eyes closed, something Susann Pettersen used to do as well. Lexi says it works – to eliminate a major human sense in order to increase the feel of another. It’s pretty gutsy, I think, but I’m going to try it next time I get the chance.
Meanwhile, Thompson is hitting 87% of her greens and averaging a drive of 286 (sigh – I wish I could hit like a girl). She’s been the 54 hole leader on six occasions, and she won four of them, so we know that she doesn’t have an issue with folding. Tomorrow, Lexi goes for her win number seven with a four-stroke lead. I’ll never know what that really feels like, but I think that if I headed into Sunday with that kind of margin, the word “stroke” would come to mean something completely different.