A major champ at 19, Thompson feels set for No. 2

Jun. 17, 2014 @ 06:49 PM

Fresh off her first major victory, 19-year-old Lexi Thompson is extremely confident headed into the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2 this week.

Back in April, Thompson’s 14-under score beat Michelle Wie by three strokes in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first major on the women’s schedule. This victory came just a few months after she finished third in The Evian Championship last September, another major championship on the women’s circuit.

“The win at Kraft Nabisco helped me out so much,” she said. “Getting a major win under my belt under that kind of pressure and those circumstances, but I’ve always imagined myself winning a Kraft Nabisco and it felt like my week when I got there.”

Thompson’s win was a culmination of a stretch starting in October of last year. She won the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia that month, following that up with a victory in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in November. Early through the 2014 season, she’s already picked up six top 10 finishes, including a tie for seventh in the Airbus LPGA Classic last month.

That kind of success, Thompson said, is a result of the work she’s done on her short game. She said she’s been working at least two-and-a-half hours a day on short game work.

“I worked so hard on my chipping and putting,” she said. “Not every week, or not every day for that matter, you’re not going to have your great ball-striking days. And you have to depend on your putting and chipping sometimes. And I think that’s what gave me the confidence and put a lot less pressure on my ball striking.”

Spectators who watched the men’s U.S. Open last week saw what impact a good short game had for those who did well, particularly with the turtle-back greens and tough pin placements the men saw on Saturday and Sunday.

But Thompson is also confident that her driving ability will be helpful. She said that No. 2 is quite demanding from off the tee, and her length - her 275.4 yards per drive is tops on the LPGA Tour - will be useful this week, but short game play is paramount.

“I think that the main key is the approach shots into those greens,” she said. “I can definitely take advantage and take my driver on a lot of the holes. The closer you can get to these greens, the better, because I’m sure they’ll firm up.”

Thompson’s history in the U.S. Women’s Open isn’t exactly sparkling. She tied for 10th in 2010, but has missed the cut three times and tied for 13th in 2013, tied for 14th in 2012 and tied for 34th in 2009.

Her victory in the Kraft Nabisco could be considered a breakthrough, but she’s trying to approach this week like any other golf tournament.

“Having that Kraft Nabisco win and getting my first major win under my belt has helped me a lot coming into this U.S. women’s Open,” she said. “But I look at it as just another tournament. I’m just going out, trying my hardest, focus on one shot at a time and relax in between shots and not let it mentally drain me.”