WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Lexi Thompson looks determined to exit the Kingsmill Championship as spectacularly as she entered it.
She also looks determined to show any wounds she may have sustained in her controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration last month are completely healed.
Thompson has been a commanding presence at Kingsmill since she jumped out of an airplane Wednesday strapped to a Navy SEAL and skydived into the first fairway before her pro-am tee time.
With another 6-under-par 65 Friday, Thompson is in position to make a run at winning wire to wire. At 12 under overall, she’s three shots ahead of Gerina Piller (67) and four ahead of Rolex world No. 1 Lydia Ko (67) and Candie Kung (66).
“It’s just a good golf course for me,” said Thompson, who is second on tour in driving distance this year. “I get to hit a lot of drivers, actually, a lot of 3-woods out here as well. I just love the shape of the golf course.”
Thompson was front and center in a firestorm of debate after she was assessed a four-shot penalty on the back nine of the final round of the ANA Inspiration, where she appeared to be on her way to running away with her second major championship title.
Thompson, 22, might have been playing the best golf of her life in Rancho Mirage before she was retroactively penalized two shots for incorrectly marking her ball in the third round and another two shots for signing an incorrect scorecard. She still almost prevailed, losing in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.
After a three-week break, Thompson made her return to golf at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout, where she showed just how deeply the controversy had wounded her, breaking down in tears in her pretournament news conference.
“It was kind of a nightmare,” Thompson said in Texas.
She tied for 17th at the Shootout.
There were questions about how the ANA loss would affect Thompson, how she would rebound, whether she could keep her confidence and momentum going. She is giving some pretty strong answers. She finished second in a Japan LPGA major two weeks ago, and she is looking to top that here in Virginia.
“She's a great ball-striker and hits it far,” Piller said. “This course definitely suits the long ball hitters, especially now. The greens are firming up and getting a little quicker. To have a shorter iron in is definitely an advantage.”
Thompson has pretty much been all smiles since she unstrapped her jumpsuit after parachuting into Kingsmill Resort Wednesday to promote her new charity benefitting families of wounded and fallen special ops forces.
“This is one of my favorite tournaments to always come back to,” Thompson said. “Not only the golf course, but the venue in general.”
With sharp ball striking and a resurgent putting stroke, Thompson looks like the player to beat. Thompson hit 17 greens in regulation on Thursday. She hit all but one fairway Friday and missed just two greens.
In the offseason, Thompson committed herself to working on her biggest weakness, her putting, and it’s paying dividends. She is taking advantage of a lot of birdie opportunities.
“My game is in a good spot,” Thompson said.