Lexi Thompson finally appeared on the cusp of flipping her script in major championships. But when the plot reached its conclusion Sunday afternoon at Congressional Country Club, the ending was all too familiar.
Thompson had again fallen short in a major championship that she had control of.
After four back-nine bogeys, most of them the product of short misses with the putter, Thompson coughed up a late lead at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and finished one shot shy of champion In Gee Chun, who notched her third major triumph and first since 2016.
Thompson was vying to end her own major drought. Still major-less since capturing her maiden title at the 2014 Chevron Championship, Thompson instead added to list of major heartbreaks.
There was the shocking four-shot penalty for mis-marking her ball the previous day that knocked her back into a playoff at the 2017 Chevron, which she lost.
Then there was the collapse at Olympic during the final round of the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open, where Thompson went from leading by five shots to bogeying the last and ending up a shot out of a playoff, in solo third.
Sunday’s shortcoming wasn’t quite as dramatic, but it still marked her fourth runner-up and 11th top-5 finish in a major since breaking through eight years ago.
Chun began the final day with a three-shot cushion, but Thompson quickly erased it with two birdies and in her first three holes coupled with Chun’s slow start – three bogeys in her first six holes. Even after Thompson had whiffed a 2-foot par putt at the par-4 14th hole to reduce her lead to a single shot, she bounced back by draining a 12-footer from Congressional’s juicy collar to stretch her advantage back to two strokes.
It looked like the winning shot, but it was merely just an aberration from what would be a recognizable close from Thompson.
On the next hole, the par-5 16th, Thompson surely could take advantage of her power game and, at worst, get away with an easy par. But she came out of her second shot, thinned a pitch from a tight lie through the green, hammered a putt up onto the green and well past the hole, and to finish things off, missed the long par save.
She bogeyed the par-4 17th as well, three-putting from 25 feet and missing the second putt from about 4 feet. That strike didn’t touch the hole either.
Finally, after a skilled approach from the rough to about 15 feet at the par-4 closing hole, Thompson’s roll to likely force a playoff – Chun had hit a great lag from the back of the green – never even scared the cup.
After one bogey in three days on Congressional’s final nine, Thompson closed with a four-bogey, 2-over 38 to shoot a final-round 73 and share second place with Minjee Lee at 4 under, one shot behind Chun, who won despite a 75-75 weekend.
An elite ball-striker who has led the LPGA in greens hit several times, Thompson, despite also ranking seventh in strokes gained putting, continually struggles to shake the putting demons when it matters most – she hasn't won an LPGA event of any kind in a few years, too, since the 2019 Shoprite LPGA Classic, and now has eight seconds during that drought.
This runner-up will likely sting a little bit longer than the others.
"Yeah, of course it’s hard to smile but, I mean, it was an amazing week" Thompson said last year after the heartbreak at Olympic, where she fielded just three questions in a brief media scrum.
After Sunday's round, Thompson declined all media. Instead, she decompressed by signing autographs for fans. Few of the screaming kids clamoring for Thompson's signature probably cared what had just happened.
But Thompson? Unfortunately, she knows this feeling all too well.