RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Lexi Thompson is back at the site of the most stinging disappointment of her young career, and she conceded Tuesday there will be a little extra motivation teeing it up at the ANA Inspiration this week.
“There is definitely a little bit of extra oomph behind me to play this week,” Thompson said.
Thompson won the ANA Inspiration four years ago, but her controversial loss in last year’s playoff looms as the major storyline this week.
While Thompson doesn’t like looking back at the loss, at how she was staggered with a four-shot penalty on the back nine of the final round, she went back to that painful place in her memory on Tuesday, freely fielding questions in the media center after her practice round.
“That night was extremely rough,” Thompson said. “I was screaming, crying. I've relived it for a while. I had nightmares about it. I still occasionally do. It's been rough, but the fans were behind me the weeks after, the months after.”
Thompson says somebody reminds her about last year’s controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration just about every week she is out on tour, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing, the way fans bring it up.
“I guess people don't really realize it, but they're doing it in a positive way,” she said. “They come up to me and they say, 'I admire the way you handled yourself, and great on that.' So, I'm always kind of reminded, but they do it in a positive way.”
Thompson looked as if she might run away with the ANA last year, putting on a tour-de-force performance in the final round, but as she was walking to 13th tee, an LPGA official informed her she was being penalized two shots for violating Rule 20-7c for incorrectly marking her ball on the 17th green the day before. Additionally, she was being penalized two more shots for violating Rule 6-6d for signing an incorrect scorecard.
The LPGA explained afterward that a viewer had emailed their fan feedback site with the possible infraction on Sunday. Replays showed she didn’t move her ball back to its original position on her mark.
“I literally thought it was a joke,” Thompson said. “It was April 1st earlier in the week.”
By the time Thompson reached the 13th tee, she was in tears.
How did she move on?
“It was a challenge for me,” she said. “Definitely not the way I wanted this tournament to end. But it was some of the best golf I've ever played, and that's the way I looked at it. I played some amazing golf. I just tried to continue that throughout the year, keep on working on my game in the off weeks.”
Thompson went on to win two LPGA events last year and finish second six times. She won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and was the Golf Writers Association of America’s Female Player of the Year.