Lexi Thompson bounced back from missing the cut at last week’s US Women’s Open as she raced into the early lead at the CME Group Tour Championship in Florida.
CME Group Tour Championship
Thompson clearly enjoyed having her brother on the bag as she fired a seven-under 65 to earn a one-shot lead over Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen, with defending champion Sei Young Kim opening with a solid 67.
Georgia Hall, who also made an early exit at the final major of the year last week, carded a 69 to sit one ahead of Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Northern Ireland’s Steph Meadow, while former winner Charley Hull was unable to maintain a bright start and battled to a 72.
Thompson struggled with her putting in Houston and had extra time to work on the greens before heading to Naples for the season finale, and she made the fast start she was looking for.
Her frustration at not taking advantage of the par-five first hole was swiftly forgotten as she birdied five of the next six, although Thompson took a step back with a bogey at the ninth.
The American clawed that shot back at the 12th, and a birdie, birdie finish was enough for her to claim the outright lead when all 72 players in the field had completed their rounds.
“I putted well today and hit it great as well,” said Thompson. “I’ve just been working really hard and trying to find something that sticks, but I don’t think I can work any harder on my game in general.
“I’m just trying to improve on things and get more consistent. It was an unfortunate week last week, but hopefully I can finish strong here. I’m just working on my game, just trying to go into every shot relaxed and really visualising my shot, commit to it and just play aggressive golf.”
Thompson, the champion at Tiburon Golf Club in 2018, revealed her relaxed demeanour was aided by having her brother, Curtis, as her caddie for the week.
“It’s great to have him on the bag,” she added. “I always cherish every opportunity we get to spend together. But to have him out there, he’s always joking and keeping me loose.
“Obviously playing great helps too, that always keeps a smile on the face. I just wanted to go into this week and just play relaxed golf. I’ve been stressing a lot just trying to get my game where I think it should be, but instead I just went out and just tried to have fun with my brother on the bag.”
Madsen birdied three in a row from the 15th and handed in a bogey-free 66 to edge into outright second ahead of Kim, Megan Khang and Solheim Cup star Caroline Masson, who pitched in for a superb eagle-two at the 13th in her 67.
Hall was one over after eight holes before a birdie at the ninth galvanised her for a positive back-nine, and further birdies at 13, 16 and 17 hauled her into a tie for 12th.
Natalie Gulbis, a controversial sponsor’s invite ahead of Women’s Open champion and local resident Sophia Popov, did little to silence the critics as she fired a 77, leaving her in last place on five over par.
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December 18, 2020, 6:00pm
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