Thompson relies on pre-shot routine in opening 66


Entering the Evian Championship, much of the discussion focused on Inbee Park's quest for the career Grand Slam, or Lydia Ko's search for a major breakthrough, or Stacy Lewis' dogged determination to end her victory drought. 

All compelling storylines, sure. Just don't forget about Lexi Thompson

Now firmly entrenched as one of the LPGA's biggest names, Thompson visualized her way to an opening-round 66 to grab a share of the early lead in France as she eyes a second major title.

The long-hitting 20-year-old made the most of a four-hole stretch Thursday in Evian-les-Bains, sandwiching an eagle on the par-5 13th between birdies on Nos. 12, 14 and 15. She parred her way around the rest of the course, and her 5-under tally set the mark during a morning wave in which Park, Lewis and Michelle Wie were all over par.

Thompson burst into the upper echelon of the women's game last year with her win at the ANA Inspiration, but with Wie's subsequent rise and the resurgence this year of Park, she has been shifted somewhat to the back burner.

Her results have remained largely solid, as Thompson opened her 2015 campaign with five top-10 finishes in her first nine starts. But a balky putter has led to some inconsistent rounds: 76-75 over the weekend at the season opener, a closing 77 at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, and a missed cut at the ShopRite LPGA Classic in May.

She got back on track with a third-place showing at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, but it wasn't until her win in July at the Meijer LPGA Classic - her first victory since her major breakthrough - that Thompson again asserted herself as a player to be reckoned with.

A pair of top-10s have followed, and Thompson attributes much of her recent success to a renewed focus on her pre-shot routine.

"I would say I've just been working on consistency in my game," Thompson said. "I've been working with John Denney down in Florida and just trying to stay positive going into shots, doing my routine and focusing on my breathing walking into the shot. So I think that's helped."

For anyone that watched Jason Day visualize his way to wins at both the PGA Championship and The Barclays last month, the notion sounds familiar. Players have long held to idiosyncratic rituals before hitting a shot, but recently an emphasis has been added to not just planning shots, but "seeing" them. 

"I'll take my few practice swings and visualize my golf shot, where I want it to start, where I want it to end up," she said. "I'm more of a feel player. I'm not very technical, so I love to see my golf shots going into pins or how my putts roll."

It's that last part that has often proved to be the difference for Thompson, and the same will hold true this week. She needed only 28 putts in the opening round, and if the flat stick cooperates - Thompson entered the week ranked 102nd in putting average - her tee-to-green advantage could help her separate from the field. 

But even Thompson realizes that much can change with 54 holes left on a major-caliber course.

"Shots can get away from you out here," she said. "If you hit it in the rough, the rough's pretty thick, so you know you have to make some good pars if you miss the fairway."

On a day when many of the biggest names struggled to get going, Thompson turned in a bogey-free scorecard to move to the top of the standings. It continued her recent run of form and offered further evidence that a well-honed routine can pay dividends.

It also showed that when discussing pre-tournament favorites, Thompson's name should never be very far down the list.