Nine years after making her professional debut as a 15-year-old at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, Lexi Thompson now goes down in tournament history as a champion. And she did it in style, making an eagle on the 18th hole on Sunday to finish with a closing 67 and a 12-under 201 total, beat newly crowned U.S. Women's Open champion Jeongeun Lee6 by one stroke and grab her 11th career LPGA title.
The win was Thompson's first since the 2018 CME Group Tour Championship and gives the 24-year-old at least one LPGA win in each season since 2013.
The Bay Course at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway, N.J., sits on the water, which can produce strong, gusting winds. Sunday was no exception. The adjustments players had to make were extreme at times. Thompson said that she didn't hit driver all day, choosing instead to use 3-wood off the tee to control her ball better. On the par-5 18th to set up her eagle putt, she was downwind with 190 yards to the green and hit pitching wedge—a club she usually hits 135 yards. The wind and the firm course conditions made what looks like a relatively easy course on paper (only a little longer than 6,000 yards) a difficult, technical one.
"It was probably the most thought I've put into shots distance-wise," Thompson said, "With the wind and then lines and then where you have to carry, and the amount of bounce-out. …"
Thompson was able to think her way around the course fresh off of a T-2 finish at the U.S. Women's Open at the Country Club of Charleston. It was her third top-five finish in her last five events. In a lot of ways, it felt like another LPGA win for Thompson was inevitable. But at the same time, in those other two events, she'd missed the cut. Though momentum felt like it was building, her inconsistency made it difficult to see where Thompson's game was actually at. With the eagle on the 18th hole in New Jersey, however, Thompson seemed to be making it clear her game is in good shape. The missed cuts are the fluke, and the top-five finishes the norm.
What makes the current status of Thompson's game all the more impressive is to look at the past couple years of her life. To say that she's been through a lot would be an understatement: The infamous ruling at the 2017 ANA that led her to not winning her second major, her mother's cancer diagnosis, a missed short putt at the 2018 CME Group Tour Championship that cost her player-of-the-year honors, opening up about struggles with body image—Thompson has had a lot to deal with both on and off the course.
And she's still learning from it.
"You know, I've definitely been through a lot, but a lot of people have," Thompson said. "I've been through a lot on and off the golf course, and I think, like I said earlier, the fans have truly helped me out a lot. Not only them but my family and my support team that I have around me, they've helped me so much just to get me through everything. Really what my mom has gone through, seeing just her attitude in life has really opened up my eyes for things that I've been through. It's not that bad.
"Obviously we're all human," Thompson continued. "We have emotions. We feel sad, depressed and everything with going through those things, but you have to be strong enough to get through things, and I think that's the most important thing to have the support team around you, the family, the friends, just to keep on picking you up and be there for you, and I think that's what helped me out the most."
Hearing Thompson talk about golf and life with that level of perspective is a reminder that she isn't a teenager anymore. Though 24 isn't old by any means, Thompson is showing that she has matured considerably during her time on tour. A maturity that, at the moment, is manifesting into some pretty great golf.