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Lexi Thompson hides the pain, remains a fan favorite in the Women’s PGA

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Lexi Thompson hit a birdie putt on her final hole of the US Women’s Open this month, walked into the scoring facility adjacent to the 18th green at the Pine Needles Golf Club in Southern Pines, North Carolina, and was given the harrowing update by the that had been invigorating.

His ailing grandmother, Mimi, had died earlier that Sunday, but Thompson’s team withheld the information until they reached a location that offered at least a modicum of privacy. When told, Ella Thompson began to sob, even as she had made her peace with the inevitable as she sat by the bedside during her beloved grandmother’s final days.

After a prolonged emotional release and much comfort from those closest to her, the sixth-ranked player in the world returned abroad to fulfill all the autograph requests and pose for dozens of photographs.

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“It was very difficult, but I know she would want me to do it,” Thompson, 27, said Tuesday at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, the site of this week’s Women’s PGA Championship. “It is important to give back to the fans. I mean, they took time out of their lives to support me, for better or worse. The least I can do is give them some of my time.”

In several instances, Thompson fought back tears before speaking to young fans delighted to spend even a few seconds in his company. Still, she pressed on, not wanting to deny the star-studded girls her moment with a golf role model who has become perhaps the most recognizable face in the women’s game of her generation.

Her fans didn’t care that Thompson had posted a five-over-par 76 in the final round or that she finished tied for 20th in her quest for her first US Women’s Open title. What mattered was that Thompson, grieving inside, still gave herself despite the circumstances.

“She is a remarkable player, but an even more remarkable person,” said LPGA Tour Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan. “She’s amazing with the girls and the fans that come to see her, and she’s just a wonderful manager. I love watching her play because she is just a killer athlete, but when you get to know the personal side of her, she makes it even better.”

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The demand for Thompson’s attention in Congress, where the 11-time LPGA winner is among the favorites in the third major on the women’s golf calendar, was much the same after her morning pro-am on the blue course ended. .

Thompson paused to sign and pose with children and adults alike in the clubhouse, thanking all the volunteers who accompanied her group and acknowledging the applause and words of encouragement almost everywhere she went.

The search for Thompson’s first win at the Women’s PGA Championship begins Thursday at 1:23 p.m. in the first professional major played on the domestic capital market since the 2011 US Open. It also marks the first women’s race at the historical congress.

Thompson is looking for her second major victory and first since 2014, when she outpointed Michelle Wie West by three strokes at the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.

“Lexi, she doesn’t need a last name, does she?” said Stacy Lewis, a two-time Grand Slam champion and 2023 US Solheim Cup captain who finished third behind Thompson at the Kraft Nabisco in 2014. “She’s the only person who probably doesn’t need a last name. Everyone knows who she is.”

Thompson ranks first in Solheim Cup points, making her a virtual lock for the sixth consecutive appearance and adding to a decorated international resume that includes representing the United States at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics. Next year’s Solheim will be held in Andalusia, Spain.

Thompson initially gained recognition in golf circles in 2011 by becoming the youngest player in history to win an LPGA Tour event, recording three consecutive rounds in the ’60s en route to a five-stroke victory at the Navistar LPGA. Classic at The Senator Course in Prattville. , To.

She was just 16 years, 7 months and 8 days old, a record that New Zealand’s Lydia Ko has since broken.

Lately, though, Thompson has been mired in a relative slump, having last won at the 2019 ShopRite Classic. It’s the longest drought of his career. His game, however, remains pristine, at least statistically, giving Thompson, in his own words, little reason to panic.

He ranks first in greens in regulation (76.5 percent), third in total shots gained (2.26 per round), and sixth in driving distance (274.68 yards). He, too, is coming off a tie for fifth in last week’s Meijer LPGA Classic, missing a three-way playoff by two shots.

“Just the way he plays and his ability to hit the golf ball itself is so impressive,” Lewis said. “You see her walk around and the way she treats the fans and the little kids, you know, it’s something that I think a lot of young players could take advantage of.”

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