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Lexi back in action in Japan, hoping swing change will help recent struggles

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Lexi Thompson is back in action this week, looking to use a swing change to play her way out of a late-season swoon.

She’s teeing it up at the Toto Japan Classic, a most hospitable setting for the 24-year-old American. She won a Japan LPGA Tour major in 2016, taking the Salonpas Cup.

Asia has been kind to Thompson over the years, with four of her 13 worldwide titles coming in the Far East. She also has won in South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia.

Thompson has missed the cut in her last two starts and three of her last five. The missed cuts at the Indy Women in Tech Championship and the Cambia Portland Classic marked the first time she has missed back-to-back cuts since her rookie year in 2012. She hasn’t played in five weeks, taking time away to train and work on a swing change.

“I’ve been practicing and training harder than I ever have in my life,” Thompson said. “I struggled my last few events. I knew [there was] a swing change that I needed to make. I feel good about it. It’s been hard work.”

Thompson said she also needed rest in time away from tournament play.

“I’ve made sure to have that really relaxing down time,” she said.

Full-field scores from the Toto Japan Classic

The missed cuts and time off affected Thompson’s world ranking. She lost her spot as the top American in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. Nelly Korda moved past Thompson this week, with Korda ascending five spots to No. 3 in the world after winning the Taiwan Swinging Skirts last weekend. Thompson has slipped to No. 8.

What’s the swing change? Thompson said it has to do with her trademark tippy-toe lunge at impact.

“It’s just trying to get everything more in control,” she said. “I’m not obviously jumping as much. That’s always going to be a part of my golf swing, but I’ve realized I need to tame it down, to get more consistent with my golf swing and my shots. I’m thinking about not jumping as much. It’s kind of another move. It’s hard to describe.”

Thompson is eager to see where the swing change is at, before heading to the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, which she won a year ago.

“It’s important for me right now, just with the swing changes I’ve made, to have a little test run and put it under the gun and in competition,” Thompson said. 

This week’s field includes a strong Japanese contingent, with Nasa Hataoka looking to defend her title and claim her fourth worldwide title this year. She won the LPGA’s Kia Classic in the spring and claimed a pair of Japanese women’s major championships this fall. Fellow Japanese star Hinako Shibuno is also in this week’s field. Shibuno is among 35 JLPGA members with standing in the field.