The 22-year-old now stands No. 2 in the world rankings for the second time this summer, trailing only Ryu, and has a chance to have just the third season in L.P.G.A. history with a scoring average below 69. Annika Sorenstam owns the other two.
“I think my game is in a great spot,” she said, adding that she worked extremely hard in the off-season to improve things like her short game, “and I think that’s showing.”
Her composure has also shown through, not only in dealing with the ANA penalty but also during her instant-classic comeback from 4-down in a Solheim Cup singles match to earn a draw with Europe’s Anna Nordqvist.
“I didn’t think Lexi could make more fans than by the way she conducted herself after the debacle at the ANA Inspiration,” the Golf Channel analyst Jerry Foltz said during the Solheim Cup. “But I might be wrong. This has been one incredible display against Europe’s best player.”
Thompson played the back nine in 7-under par, nearly stealing the point when a birdie at No. 16 gave her a 1-up advantage. It took a steely 8-iron from Nordqvist to little more than a foot at the final hole to salvage a half-point. It was the lift the Americans needed to beat back early European momentum and gain a convincing victory, 16 1/2 to 11 1/2.
“When she started coming back, we started coming back,” said Juli Inkster, the United States captain.
Thompson said: “The back nine was definitely some of the best golf I’ve ever played in my life. Some of the best shots I’ll have in my career, that’s for sure.”
It was a far happier result than what transpired in April in the California desert. Six holes from what would have been Thompson’s second major title – she won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2014, before it was renamed the ANA Inspiration – and two shots ahead of her nearest pursuer, she got a visit from an L.P.G.A. rules official. She was penalized for improperly replacing her ball on the 17th green during the third round. A TV viewer had noticed that Thompson had placed her coin alongside her ball, then later put the ball down in front of the coin.
The difference could not have been more than an inch. The penalty: four strokes – two for the infraction and two more for signing an incorrect third-round scorecard. “Is this a joke?” Thompson could be heard saying. As social media exploded with indignation, Thompson rallied to force a playoff with Ryu before the South Korean — now ranked No. 1 in the world – prevailed on the first extra hole.
Afterward, a teary-eyed Thompson earned kudos for the way she answered every question. She also reflected on the incident a few weeks later, but made it clear that she had closed that chapter.
“I really don’t have any comments about that tournament anymore,” she said at the Women’s British Open. “It’s definitely made me more determined than ever — but I’m such a determined person in general. Anytime I tee it up out there is to win.”
She also suffered a blow before the Women’s P.G.A. Championship when she learned that her mother, Judy, had received a diagnosis of a recurrence of uterine cancer. Judy Thompson underwent a hysterectomy and radiation treatments, returning to see her daughter play the United States Women’s Open in July.
“She’s back to being healthy now,” Thompson said. “She was at the Solheim Cup and the Open this year. She trucked around for 36 holes, so she’s doing very well.”
Perhaps the only thing lacking for Thompson this year has been more trophies, though she’s now just one of two multiple winners on the L.P.G.A. Tour this season. She also captured the Kingsmill Championship in May, and has five runner-up finishes in addition to the ANA. A victory in a major near the end of the year, though, would be just as good as one at the start.
“I’ve just really wanted to play consistent golf and put myself in a position to win. I’ve done that a few times this year,” she said. “It’s been a great year, and I’m looking forward to finishing it off.”
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