Column: Lexi Thompson wants golf, life to be positive

Lexi Thompson has gone five years since her only major title.

NAPLES — One of the rookies on the LPGA Tour next year was asked which player she admired when she started getting serious about golf.

She mentioned Lexi Thompson.

“It kind of makes me feel old. I’m 24,” Thompson said when told this, her smile a mixture of disbelief and pride. “For somebody to say I was a role model, that’s awesome.”

This wasn’t her best year on the LPGA Tour, with only one victory. That came one week after Thompson began the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open one shot out of the lead, started with three bogeys in four holes and never caught up.

But that victory at the ShopRite Classic was memorable because Thompson hit pitching wedge from 192 yards on the par-5 closing hole to 20 feet and made eagle. Power is appealing.

And it was meaningful, because it extended her remarkable run of at least one victory in each of the last seven years, the longest active streak on the LPGA Tour.

The question is whether she feels 24 or someone closing in on a decade of golf at the elite level.

Thompson, with 11 LPGA victories, returns to CME Globe Tour Championship as the defending champion, blowing away the field by four shots.

But it has not been without plenty of bumps along the way.

She took an extended break from golf last year to try to become more emotionally whole. She took to social media earlier this year to announce that she was getting off social media, bothered by an endless stream of negativity from people hiding behind handles.

And there is the relentless temptation to meet expectations that inevitably follow a player who was powerful and polished before she could drive a car.

Her best golf was in the summer, when she won and was runner-up three times during a rare five-week stretch. But when you’ve been that good for that long, it’s easy to follow a narrative of negativity.

Should she be winning more?

Thompson, who has played only twice since going 0-2-2 in the Solheim Cup in September, is now at No. 9. She no longer is even the highest-ranked American. That distinction goes to 21-year-old Nelly Korda, who has won three times in the last 13 months.

“The more pressure you put on yourself and listen to the outside on expectations and what you should be achieving, it’s just going to tear you down,” she said. “Then if you focus on that, you can’t perform to your highest.”

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