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For Thompson, inspiration, then domination

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WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Maybe Lexi Thompson should skydive into every LPGA event.

Thompson exited the Kingsmill Championship Sunday as spectacularly as she entered it. She was a commanding presence from start to finish in a wire-to-wire victory.

Five days after parachuting into the first fairway before her pro-am tee time with a Navy SEAL strapped to her back, Thompson left the galleries here gaping in awe yet again.

With a 6-under-par 65 in the final round, Thompson delivered a definitive answer to any question about how the heartache of that controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration last month would affect her confidence and momentum.

“I am always a very determined person,” Thompson said. “Every time I've tee'd it up, I have that drive to win, even more now.”

Thompson said family support was key to her regrouping and overcoming.

“I went straight home and I was golfing the next day, if not the day after,” she said. “I was so determined just to keep on working on my game, because I knew that [the ANA] was the best golf I have played. I just couldn't let it get to me. 

“To have the support from my family and friends and all the fans, it was amazing. Without them, I wouldn't be here.”

Thompson said the victory ought to finally close a chapter on the ANA and its emotional aftermath.

“It definitely does,” Thompson said. “I’m so over it. It’s in the past. It’s unfortunate what happened, but it’s time to move on.”

At 20-under overall, Thompson set the Kingsmill Championship’s 72-hole record, surpassing the mark Annika Sorenstam set in 2008 by one shot.

Thompson finished five shots ahead of In Gee Chun (67) and nine shots ahead of Angela Stanford (66).

Thompson made her peers marvel.

“After ANA, she is still playing with a lot of confidence,” Rolex world No. 1 Lydia Ko said. “It’s hard to overcome those things, but it just shows what a champion she is and what a strong player she is. She deserved it.”

It was Thompson’s eighth career LPGA title, her first since the Honda LPGA Thailand almost 15 months ago.

Thompson, 22, overpowered Kingsmill, but she won with more than that. This victory showed how all the work Thompson put into her putting and short game in the offseason is paying off. Putting has been Thompson’s Achilles’ heel in the past, but she was confident with her putter all week. Even her lag putting was at another level, taking a lot of pressure off her on these quick greens.

“Her putting’s been there,” Ko said. “She’s been putting well and hitting her drives well.

“Lexi’s more of an aggressive player, rather than being conservative, especially with her confidence in the driver. She can just rip it, and then she’s got a shorter club in, which is nice with these firmer greens.”

Thompson finished 22nd in driving distance for the week, but that’s because her power allowed her to hit so many 3-woods past opponents’ drivers around the doglegs here. She missed just one green on Sunday. She led the field for the week in hitting greens in regulation (64 of 72).

Chun tried to put pressure on Thompson early, moving within two shots with a birdie at the seventh hole, but Thompson didn’t waver, delivering finesse when power wasn’t enough.

At the 15th hole, from an awkward stance, with one foot in a fairway bunker, Thompson hit a tricky recovery to safe haven, escaping a tough lie to set up her approach and another birdie. It gave her the five-shot cushion she rode home to the victory.

“It was definitely a shot I needed to pull off,” Thompson said.

Thompson played the final round in blue camouflage. It relates back to her spectacular entrance at week’s start, when she skydived from 10,000 feet with a Navy SEAL team to promote her new charity benefitting families of wounded and fallen special ops forces.

Kingsmill galleries came out in strong numbers to cheer Thompson to the victory.

“It’s the best feeling, honestly,” she said. “Words can’t describe it.”