SAMMAMISH, Wash. – In so far as anyone is carrying the water for the Americans this LPGA season, Lexi Thompson would be that woman. The lone win for a Yank in 15 events this year is on her ledger. And, with her length, she might the best hope for the U.S. when the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship starts Thursday at Sahalee Country Club.
The 21-year-old Floridian who is No. 3 in the Rolex Rankings – best among the Americans – leads the tour in driving distance at an eye-popping 284.3 yards per whack. Now some might say that advantage will be negated by the fact she’s only No. 80 on tour in driving accuracy, especially on the tight Sahalee fairways lined by towering trees.
But that would be a wrong assumption. On the LPGA, home of a lot of short hitters who almost never miss a fairway, Thompson still finds the short grass 70.31 percent of the time.
And she’s converted that into the second-best greens in regulation effort at 79.37 percent. So while a lot of players are leaving the driver in the bag – Ariya Jutanugarn isn’t even carrying one this week – Lexi is going to stick to her grip-it-and-rip-it game.
“My driver is in the bag, and it’s being pulled out a lot,” Thompson said Wednesday.
“Length is actually important (here) because the greens are very firm,” she said. “So you want as short of a shot as possible. You don’t want a long iron coming into the greens, especially if they start tucking pins.”
That will be especially true if the already lush layout gets some rain, as is expected. It’s listed on the PGA of America info sheet as playing at a robust 6,624 yards, although it will likely play a bit shorter than that most days.
“It’s very important to stay in the fairway,” Lexi said. “Even if you hit on the side of the fairways you can get blocked by the side trees. It’s very important to just place your ball in the right area.”
Lexi comes into the KPMG on a bit of a roll, having finished in the top 10 in five of her last six starts and that victory in the Honda Thailand early in the year.
The real key for Thompson could very well be – as it usually is for her – the shortest club in the bag. While she is No. 36 in putts per GIR, she is a dismal No. 143 in overall putting average.
Length will matter this week, as will accuracy and putting. If those stars align for Lexi, someone would have to play very well to deny her an eighth career victory and second major championship.