Lexi Thompson smoked the rest of the elite field at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia by four shots. She got it around the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club, East Course, in an impressive 19-under 265. She shot all four rounds in the sixties for the first time in her career and she beat her previous personal best of 271. Her closest pursuer was Shanshan Feng who won in Beijing just last week. Suzann Pettersen was three strokes behind Feng.
The round-by-round highlights included a 4-under 67 in the first round that included a double and a bogey on a par-5, an 8-under 63 in the second round that included a bogey early and an eagle-2 on a par-4 nestled in the middle of four birdies on the back, a pure five birdies in the third round and in the fourth, a burst of 3 birdies after the turn that shut down the hopes of her pursuers.
I first became aware of Lexi when she was an attraction at the 2011 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. Twitter was all atwitter with videos of her hitting balls with her driver on the range. As impressive as that was, I knew seeing her in person would be the best display of her talent. When she entered the RR Donnelley Founders Cup here in Phoenix, she was my number one “get.” I had to see this girl play.
I happened to be on the range when she was warming up for a practice round. Because there are no announced tee times, when she went to the first tee, it was just me and three other guys.
One of them was her father, Scott. I had a delightful conversation with him over the nine holes she played and he was as nervous as a cat. He had just taken the heroic step of giving up her bag in favor of a professional caddie. Veteran caddie Greg Johnston got the nod and Scott was watching how they were working together from afar, but very carefully. It was killing him that he wasn’t still on the bag, but he knew he had to let her go.
He had handpicked Johnston after sizing up the many caddies he came across in the course of being out there with Lexi. When Johnston suddenly became available, that was Scott’s cue that it was safe for him to step aside; Johnston was too good to let get away. He chose him because he was sharp with a professional demeanor and most particularly, a nice, stable, family man.
From her comments in Kuala Lumpur this past week, it’s clear that their relationship has cemented:
My caddie Greg, yeah, I’ve used him probably almost two years now, maybe a little bit more, and he was a huge role in today. Not only today but every round that I tee it up, he’s always a huge role. I don’t do any of my numbers so he figures out that for me and he’s pretty much my best friend out on the golf course. He’s always there for me through the bad times and with me to celebrate at the end, too.
Scott was also getting professional managers involved with Lexi. When I broached the subject of an interview as the round was drawing to a close, he immediately agreed. And then he realized that he should include the manager in his decision. He called in my business card info and the manager said he would come to the range in a few minutes to meet me.
An hour later, he apologized for an extended call he couldn’t get to the end of and I gave him a brief synopsis of Eye On The Tour’s interest in all things mastery, especially from the point of view of exceptional players on the big tours. All precautions to guard Lexi’s best interests were clearly in place.
I got the green light and Lexi was gracious enough to interrupt her practice to give me a few minutes. It was very interesting to watch her young face go from the passive intensity of practice to the gracious, willing smile of a media savvy player.
That interview in March of 2012, Lexi Thompson: Wunderkind, was quite interesting in that all of the sage wisdom she revealed to me was coming from a mere 17-year-old.