2016 HSBC Women's Champions

Golf: Restless Thompson eager to dominate LPGA Tour

Lexi Thompson, who took her first Major golf title at the age of 19, in action at the HSBC Women’s Champions pro-am yesterday.
Lexi Thompson, who took her first Major golf title at the age of 19, in action at the HSBC Women’s Champions pro-am yesterday.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

After displacing Stacy Lewis as top American with Thai victory, she is chasing Ko and Park

Patience has never been Lexi Thompson's strongest suit.

As a junior golfer, she would scrawl words like "tempo" on her left glove as a reminder not to rush through her swing. She never bothered waiting in the queue either. At 12, she became the youngest player to qualify for a US Open and four years later became the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour.

Even reaching a career-high world No. 3 at the start of this week and ending Stacy Lewis' 195-week reign as the top-ranked American has done little to quell Thompson's restlessness.

 

"It's great to finally become the American No. 1 but what I really want is to be the best golfer in the world," she told The Straits Times.

On current form, she is not far off. Since last July, Thompson has won three times - including a dominant six-shot victory at last week's Honda LPGA Thailand - to match world No. 1 Lydia Ko's tally and one more than second-ranked Park In Bee.

AIMING HIGH

It's great to finally become the American No. 1 but what I really want is to be the best golfer in the world.

LEXI THOMPSON

History suggests that a fourth win on Sunday at the HSBC Women's Champions will be difficult, though. Only once (Ai Miyazato in 2010) has a player lifted the HSBC trophy after recording a win the previous weekend in Thailand.

But Thompson, who trains with NHL team Florida Panthers' strength and conditioning coach Craig Slaunwhite, possesses the power to subdue Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong course.

One of the longest hitters on tour - ranked inside the top four in the past four seasons - Thompson, 21, has averaged 290 yards this term with her Cobra King LTD.

Said New Zealand's Ko: "Lexi's hitting it long and pretty straight... You kind of stand back and go wow. Just even the swing speed or the sound it makes... I wish I could hit it as long as her."

Added 2012 HSBC winner Angela Stanford: "Lexi's length off the tee is her biggest weapon but she's also one of the hardest workers out there. She's always in the gym."

Stanford's win in 2012 was the first of three straight victories at the HSBC event by the United States before South Korean Park interrupted that sequence last year.

Both countries will field an 18-strong contingent at the US$1.5 million (S$2.11 million) tournament and together have won five of the past eight editions.

While South Korea has been lauded as the dominant nation with its golfers winning 25 LPGA titles in the past two years, the US has managed 20 wins to dispel theories that they are a fading force.

Last September's stirring comeback win in the Solheim Cup against Europe has also given the Americans a spring in their step.

Noted world No. 17 and two-time Major winner Brittany Lincicome: "The girls are playing with a lot of confidence and belief and we all feel that this will be a big year for women's golf in the US. We've done well in Singapore and hopefully this week it's my turn."

Last year, defending champion Park had a week to remember as she did not record a bogey over 72 holes at Serapong's tough and narrow 6,600-yard layout, en route to a two-shot victory over Ko.

The seven-time Major champion is nursing a back injury but has the pedigree to become the first back-to-back HSBC winner.

Said Park: "I've proved to myself that I can do it and win last year. That's going to help me, keeping that mindset... If I play my perfect game, I can win the tournament."

Power and precision are the perfect and rarest alchemy in golf and were on full display last week at the Siam Country Club, courtesy of Thompson. She said: "It gives you a lot of confidence when you're able to play golf like that.

"I can't wait to tee it up again."

HSBC WOMEN'S CHAMPIONS: DAY 1
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2016, with the headline 'RESTLESS THOMPSON EAGER TO DOMINATE'. Print Edition | Subscribe