Lexi Thompson’s major season can come full circle at the Evian Championship

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There have been 19 different winners in 25 LPGA tournaments this season, and a different player—So-Yeon Ryu, Danielle Kang, Sung-Hyun Park and In-Kyung Kim—has won each major. You’d be on safe ground, then, to say that this week’s the Evian Championship, the LPGA’s final major of 2017, is anyone’s tournament.

So why then does it also feel like it’s Lexi Thompson’s to lose?

A victory at last week’s Indy Women in Tech Championship was the 22-year-old Florida native’s second title of the season, to go with nine top-five finishes 17 starts. She’s the only American to win more than once on the LPGA in 2017, and as she is set to tee it up at the Evian Resort Golf Club, she’s ranked No.1 in greens in regulation, No. 3 in driving, No. 1 in scoring average, No. 1 in the Race to the CME Globe and No. 2 in the world, with the chance to leap to No. 1 depending on her finish in France.

With her impressive play has come a renewed swagger for the nine-time LPGA winner. Throughout this season, Thompson has specifically said she’s playing some of the best golf of her life, and you can tell it’s not just a line, but something she truly believes. You can see it in the way she carries herself, the way she approaches tournaments knowing she’s capable of winning each one she plays. It’s intimidating.

So where has this come from? The obvious answer may the most accurate one: The disappointment of the loss at the ANA Inspiration has fueled a new found determination.

Recall that at the first major of the year, Thompson was cruising to what most thought would be a comfortable win when she was assessed a four-stroke penalty on the back nine of the final round at Mission Hills for a rules violation brought to the LPGA’s attention by a fan watching the competition on TV. Thompson went from two strokes in the lead to two behind in an instant, rallied to birdie two of the next three holes and force a playoff, but ultimately lost to Ryu in heartbreaking fashion.

There were a lot of tears that day, understandably. The next time she spoke about the ruling was at a press conference three weeks later at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout. It was again an emotional moment. She reiterated that she never intended to break the rules.

“Just for that to happen, it was just—it was kind of a nightmare,” said Thompson.

Yet that was the last time she talked about the incident in public. Whether emotionally she has truly put the incident behind her—or still hasn’t—is unclear, but there was no more need to relive it.

Unfortunately, the season has had more emotional hardship for Thompson. In June, she revealed that her mom, Judy, was undergoing treatment for cancer, a situation that put her on-course issues into a different context.

“She’s always been a role model of mine,” Thompson said while playing at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. “I always aspire to be the woman—half the woman that she is. She just says: ‘No matter what, I love you, just go out, do your best, that’s all you can do.’ That’s her message every week and that’s why I absolutely love her.”

Four months later, Judy is doing well and has been out on the course following her daughter as she competes.

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