LAS VEGAS — Lexi Thompson didn’t hesitate when informed that she had been invited to play in this week’s Shriners Children’s Open, where she will become only the seventh woman to compete on the PGA Tour.
She had other plans for this weekend after a busy schedule that had included consecutive LPGA Tour events following the Solheim Cup, but those quickly got pushed back.
“It was basically an automatic yes,” Thompson said during her pre-tournament news conference Tuesday. “It was kind of last minute, last notice. I was like, ‘Alright, OK, let’s go.’
“I didn’t know that it was in the works, but I’m very happy that it was.”
The 28-year-old used the word “inspire” five times Tuesday, and it’s a theme Thompson continually has referenced over the course of her 12-year professional career.
The youngest golfer to ever compete in the U.S. Women’s Open at 12 years old in 2007, she went on to become the youngest to ever win an LPGA Tour event four years later.
Those records have since been broken and while she won’t be the first woman to compete on the PGA Tour, Thompson will join a small and illustrious group at this week’s Shriners Children’s Open when she tees off at 4:19 ET on Thursday in a group alongside Kevin Roy and Trevor Werbylo.
She was asked how she has remained so resilient during a career that includes 11 LPGA Tour wins, a major title and six Solheim Cup team appearances — but also some very high-profile misses at other major tournaments.
“Since I have been under the microscope since I was 12 years old, just being used to it. But honestly, just believing in yourself,” she said. “Because you know what you’re capable of, and all you have to do is believe in the work that you’ve put in and go out there and trust the process.
“That’s what I’ve done throughout my career. Turning pro at a young age was a big step, I’m doing this … so, really, you just have to go out there and do what you love.”
That’s why Thompson is embracing the challenge this week, despite knowing there are some people who don’t agree with the invitation she was given. She was asked about the comments made last week by Peter Malnati, who retracted after calling Thompson’s inclusion in the tournament a “gimmick.”
“I knew some comments were going to happen with anything,” she said. “I’m out here playing of course with the men, but I want to leave a message just to the kids that I’m following my dreams and to go after what you want with a positive mindset and don’t let anybody’s comments or reaction get in the way of that.”
Thompson played a limited schedule earlier this year, acknowledging that she was trying to enjoy her life off of the golf course more. She has struggled most of the year, making only five cuts in 12 starts on the LPGA Tour.
However, she managed to hold onto an automatic spot on the United States Solheim Cup team and said she found something key in her swing the week before the event. Thompson put together a 3-1-0 performance in Spain before turning to the U.S., where she has finished in a tie for eighth and solo fifth the past two weeks.
Thompson said she has been hitting hundreds of golf balls per day to hone in the swing fix, and has enjoyed easily her best golf of 2023 entering this week.
She knows she’ll need every facet of her game to be on point. That starts with the driver, as TPC Summerlin’s par-71 layout measures 7,255 yards. By comparison, this week’s LPGA Tour event is being contest on a par-72, 6,672-yard course.
Thompson is enjoying being able to swing freely after being limited in how many drivers she’s able to hit on typically LPGA Tour layouts.
“You still have to hit the golf shots on the LPGA Tour. It’s just I don’t get to take advantage of sometimes my length on a few of those holes,” she said. “Here it’s driver on every hole, and I definitely like that. Fire away and swing, get the most distance I can on a few of those holes.”
Competing alongside men is not new to Thompson, who has played six times in the QBE Shootout, an unofficial tour event she is scheduled to play in next month with Rickie Fowler.
But first comes joining the list of women who came before her in competing in a regular tour event: Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley, Michelle Wie West and Brittany Lincicome. Only Spork made the cut, finishing 105th at the 1952 Barracuda Championship.
Asked what she would consider a successful week in her PGA Tour debut, Thompson said making the cut would obviously be “at the top” of her career achievements and an “amazing feeling.” But that’s not her main priority.
“Yes, good golf is a successful week. But honestly, if I can leave here inspiring others, and especially those Shriners kids, that’s what it’s all about,” she said. “There’s more than just playing golf. If I can inspire one individual, I feel like I’m making progress. Of course, yes, I want to play good. That a whole ‘nother story, but there’s more to life than just performing well. That’s what I want to do, I want to inspire others.
“We’ll see where the golf takes me. I’ll just take one shot at a time and whatever happens, it’s just a blessing to be here.”