Rozner: Lexi Thompson reaches PGA at Kemper in stride
Lexi Thompson is having a very nice year.
With five top 10s, including a fifth, ninth and third in her past three starts, the 23-year-old Thompson is trending in the right direction and figures to be a huge threat at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship here at Kemper Lakes.
But Thompson -- 13th in the CME race -- isn't satisfied, which is what you would expect from the No. 3 player in the world when she hasn't won a tournament in 2018.
"My game is super close. I know it will all fall together," Thompson said. "Golf is a crazy game. You lose more than you win, so you just have to be patient with it and take the struggles as they come, and then it makes the successes that much better."
Thompson finished tied for fifth at the U.S. Open earlier this month, and in the first major of the year she opened with a 4-under at the ANA Inspiration and looked be in a perfect spot. But she never got it going the rest of the week and played 3-under the next three days to finish 8 back.
After four top 7s the previous four years, including her lone major victory in 2014 at the ANA, you have to wonder how distracted Thompson was in Palm Springs by what occurred in 2017 at the ANA.
Thompson was cruising to victory that Sunday at the LPGA's first major of 2017 when she was informed while walking to the 13th tee that she would be docked 4 strokes for an infraction that occurred the previous day.
While the rules have changed since that decision by the joke that is the USGA, on that day she was charged 2 strokes for committing a foul on the green, when she might have -- might have -- mismarked her ball by a fraction while trying to avoid stepping on the line of her playing partner.
No player, caddie or rules official saw it, but a TV viewer called it in the next day and Thompson was penalized 2 for the mark and 2 for signing an incorrect score card.
She rallied to tie but lost in a playoff, and when she arrived at the ANA this year, the 2017 fiasco dominated the conversation and Thompson looked worn out by the time she made it to the weekend.
"That tournament is one of my favorites. It's never changed, even with what happened," Thompson said. "I love that event, but overall in general it was a tough week.
"I played really well. Just didn't have the finish that I wanted."
Thompson finished third in Arkansas over the weekend and instead of flying straight to Chicago for a major championship, she spent Monday in Rhode Island for the CVS Health Charity Classic.
"It's been a crazy last day-and-a-half," Thompson said with a smile. "(The CVS) is an amazing event I've played in about six, seven times now. It raises a lot of money for the charities in Rhode Island.
"Flew in late last night, got in around 10:30. I've never seen the golf course, but I'll play in the pro-am today and probably 18 holes tomorrow.
"But I feel good about my game. It's all just a matter of getting to know the golf course."
That's a significant sacrifice for a good cause, given that as of 1 p.m. Tuesday she had never set foot on Kemper Lakes.
"I wasn't hesitant at all," Thompson said of the CVS. "What that event does for the local charities in Rhode Island … it's truly amazing what they do and how they change the world with that event.
"So it's no question that I'll go to that any time I'm invited. I don't care what week it is.
"But if I get two looks at a golf course -- if I can't figure it out in two days -- I mean, I never usually come weeks ahead for a major anyway to look at a golf course."
As the top-ranked American and a huge fan favorite everywhere she goes, Thompson will have some huge galleries this week at the PGA, and she's excited to have Chicago sports fans on her side.
"I love it. I love bigger crowds. It means the world to me that I have the fans that I do," Thompson said. "I'm very grateful for it, that they take time out of their day to come out and support me, watch me chase a white ball around.
"The more people the better. We want to see women's golf grow as a sport. That's what we all want to see."
As is always the case, there are a few dozen players capable of winning this week at Kemper, but Lexi Thompson is heading in the right direction and will play a course that -- like Palm Desert -- rewards length and greens in regulations.
Besides, she's due.
• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.