16-Year-Old Thompson Falters in Final Round After Holding 54-Hole Lead (*Update)
By Stephanie Wei under LPGA

Lexi Thompson bumped into the learning curve

On Sunday in Mobile, Alabama, Alexis (Lexi) Thompson faced her first opportunity in her ripe age of 16 to close a professional event, the Avnet LPGA Classic, and to become the youngest winner in history. Who wouldn’t have loved to see Lexi make history? It sure would have been a boost for women’s golf and could only help the LPGA’s sponsor woes. But Lexi’s youth and inexperience hampered her efforts in the final round. Perhaps it just wasn’t her day. And maybe she should make a caddie change.

Already playing beyond her years, Thompson fired a stellar five-under 67 on Saturday to surge up the leaderboard and share the 54-hole lead with Song-Hee Kim. Unfortunately, Lexi stumbled in the final round, making several costly mistakes to tumble out of contention — and the top-ten, for that matter.

“I just didn’t hit it very solid,” said Lexi. “My driver wasn’t that bad but my irons weren’t good. I just wasn’t trusting anything. I don’t know why, because I wasn’t even that nervous surprisingly.

“It definitely was (a learning experience). I’m only 16, so I’m just learning every tournament.”

She’ll have quite a few more opportunities to become the LPGA’s youngest winner. Lexi still has almost two years to outdo Marlene Hagge, who was 18 years, 14 days when she won the 18-hole Sarasota Open. Paula Creamer is the youngest winner of a multi-round event, capturing the 2005 Sybase Classic at 18 years, 9 months, 17 days.

With Lexi’s tremendous talent, I’m sure it won’t be long before we see her contending for a title again.

She got off to a slow start, carding two bogeys in the first three holes, but she won back a stroke with a birdie on No. 5. She stayed steady for the next eight holes, posting pars. The wheels really began to fall off on the par-3 No. 14. Her caddie and daddy, Scott Thompson, wanted her to a hit a pitching wedge. She didn’t seem thrilled with the selection, but went with it. Just barely finishing her swing with the ball in the air, Lexi called out, “Wrong club,” to vent her frustration. And indeed it was. Her shot found the hazard and caused her to double the hole. She was unable to recover and double-bogeyed the following hole, too.

Now, this is total speculation, but I sensed some tension between Lexi and her dad. Personally, I think there comes a point where dads shouldn’t caddie for their daughters anymore. You know, like maybe when they turn pro.  I’m sure the two are very close, but that’s also part of the problem. It’s a recipe for disaster because it gets too emotional and teenage girls and their dads are bound to butt heads, especially on the golf course. Just my two cents.

I don’t know the Thompsons or their relationship well, but I do know what it’s like being 16 and having my dad caddy for me in USGA events (no, it’s not the LPGA, but the analogy works). There just comes a time when you don’t want to have your parents around you 24/7 and you want a professional caddie, like your peers.  I’m also not saying this is the case for everyone. Some teenage girls are angels and don’t ever butt heads with their parents. But Lexi’s pretty blatant call-out of her dad seemed like there was more to it than just his mis-clubbing her. Had she had a regular LPGA caddie on her bag, would she have yelled that so loudly? Probably not.

Lexi bogeyed the 18th and posted a six-over 78 to drop to a T19 finish. Yikes. But let’s chalk it up as a positive learning experience. And like I said, we’ll be seeing much more of the teen phenom and I don’t think I’m alone when I say I’m looking forward to Lexi’s next start.

*Update: I may have misunderstood what Lexi said when she hit it short in the water on No. 14. According to Jerry Foltz, who was the on-course commentator with Lexi’s group, he heard her say, “Get up,” rather than “Wrong club.” But he added sometimes people watching the telecast hear things caught on the boom mic that are out of range for him. My apologies if I made the mistake. I wish I could find a YouTube video of the shot to confirm…did anyone else actually watch Sunday’s LPGA coverage?? Anyone?

(AP Photo/The Mobile Register, Chip English)