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With confidence, happiness and fans, Lexi Thompson in position for USWO win

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SAN FRANCISCO – Her last major win was in 2014. Can Lexi Thompson persevere on top at this week’s U.S. Women’s Open? A 5-under clean scorecard on Saturday says she can.

“I love playing in front of people and just seeing those little kids and hearing the chants, it just, it brings me happiness and a reason to play golf again,” Lexi said at Saturday’s press conference following her 66, a personal best in this championship. She is currently the solo leader, at 7 under, one shot ahead of Yuka Saso and four shots ahead of 17-year-old amateur Megha Ganne.

U.S. Women’s Open: Full-field scores | Full coverage

Fans were chanting Lexi’s name all day and she had the biggest smile on her face – a smile many missed seeing. Lexi hasn’t struggled, per say, but hasn’t played to the standards she’s used to, finishing inside the top 20 only once in her last four events.

“I just realized that I needed to change my mindset. The mental side, I think, was really getting to me. I was just taking it way too seriously and thinking that ‘Lexi’ depended on my score. It’s really hard for me to not think that, but I just got into a state, I'm going to hit bad shots, and it is what it is,” Thompson said.

Adjusting your mental game doesn’t change overnight, but Lexi did what it took to make it happen.

Lexi-Saso battle has a little 1997 USWO vibe

Twenty-four years ago, the roles were reversed. America’s darling trailed by three entering the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open.

“Easier said than done to, oh, just be happier,” she said. “But it's just, it takes a lot of hard work. I've been just really focusing on the good in my life and just the blessings.”

Blessings like family, friends – and, of course – having the fans back.

Lexi played in her first U.S. Open when she was 12 years old. Sunday, she will have a chance to hold the trophy she’s always dreamed of winning.

And the fans will be ready to chant if she does.