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No cut, but mission accomplished for Lexi Thompson at Shriners

With a smirk, you knew that the result did matter.

Lexi Thompson, though playing for more than herself at this week’s Shriners Children’s Open, wanted to make the cut. Officially, only one woman had ever made the cut in a PGA Tour event. But that was Babe Didrikson Zaharias, in 1945, well before there ever was a PGA Tour.

Thompson has a history of making history, qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Open at age 12, winning an LPGA major as a teen.

Few felt this week would be a record-setting occasion, considering Thompson was only recently starting to gain traction after spinning her wheels all season.

But thanks to playing a 10-hole stretch in 5 under par on Friday at TPC Summerlin, Thompson gave herself a good shot at the weekend.

Ultimately, it wasn’t to be as she finished at even par, outside the number when she signed her scorecard. That card, however, said 2-under 69, making her the second-ever woman (Michelle Wie West, twice) to break 70 in a PGA Tour event.

“Very proud. I played really well today,” Thompson said after her round, in which Cam Champ led the way at 12 under par.

“Seeing the people out there and hearing the cheers and seeing all the little kids, that’s what I play for. I think I said that on the last hole. A little kid screamed out, ‘Go Lexi, you’re great!’, and that just makes my day. No matter what I’m shooting, I could shoot 80, and they’d be like, you did great.”

It was less than two weeks ago that Thompson received a sponsor’s invitation to compete in the FedExCup Fall event. She said that her acceptance was primarily based, not on becoming the seventh women to play on Tour, but to inspire girls and boys.

She held a clinic this week with kids from the Shriners Children’s Hospital and several of them signed her bag, returning the encouragement.

As for the competition itself, it appeared a valiant effort but no more, Friday morning. Thompson returned to complete her opening round, which had been suspended by darkness, and faced a 20-foot par putt on the 17th. She missed.

Thompson closed with a par for a 2-over 73: T-93.

After a quick turnaround to start the second round, Thompson laced an iron at the flagstick on her opening hole, the par-4 10th, but the ball bounded through the green. She failed to get up and down and dropped to 3 over par, outside the top 100.

Undaunted, Thompson birdied the 11th, hitting a 152-yard approach shot to 4 feet.

She birdied the par-5 13th, hitting her tee shot 314 yards, her second shot 275 yards, and then two-putting from off the green.

She birdied the par-4 15th, driving the 296-yard hole and two-putting from 34 feet.

And like that, she was back to even par for the tournament, tied for 69th and on the number.

With the late wave still to tee off and the cut line anticipated at least 2 under, Thompson needed more birdies – and her putter, of all clubs, cooperated.

Through 27 holes, Thompson had been both long and straight off the tee, averaging over 300 yards on measured drives and hitting 13 of 21 fairways (including driving the 15th green on Friday). She just hadn’t hit her iron shots close enough (her Rd. 1 proximity to the hole was nearly 50 feet) nor gotten many putts to drop.

But then a 24-footer for birdie fell at the first (her 10th): T-50.

And then a 28-footer for birdie at the second: T-39.

Making the cut wasn’t just a dream; it was a stark possibility.

“I was impressed. She hits the ball really good,” playing competitor Trevor Werbylo, who shot 67-67, said. “It was fun seeing her make a run today. All in all, I’d say very, very impressed.”

Thompson had been as pristine as the Vegas skyline for the better part of two days, save for a three-putt double bogey early in Round 1.

Teeing off at the 186-yard, par-3 fifth, however, she struck her ball, leaned left and watched as it landed short of the green and into a penalty hazard. But Thompson, who has had her share of disastrous moments at inopportune times, didn’t buckle. She got up and down from 117 yards to save bogey, keeping her inside the real-time cut line at T-57.

For the two rounds, Thompson played the par 5s in 3 under, the par 4s in 1 under and the par 3s in 4 over. That latter number included a final bogey at the 247-yard eighth hole, when her tee shot ran through the green and she left her pitch 12 feet short.

“I hit some great shots coming in, even on my 17th hole, No. 8, and just ran through,” she said. “But it’s a 2-iron, so I can’t really expect too much.”

Back to even par, Thompson likely needed eagle on her final hole, the par-5 ninth, to have a shot at the cut. She gave herself a chance, chipping from 30 yards just past the edge of the hole. She missed the 6-foot comebacker, though, and settled for par, placing her tied for 73rd at the time, two shots ahead of the third member of the group, Kevin Roy (the cut line eventually moved to 3 under).

Thompson, 28 and a professional for more than 13 years, picked her ball out of the hole, stood up and revealed a side smile that expressed a mix of appreciation and disappointment – and also exhaustion.

Dating to the Solheim Cup, this was Thompson’s fourth consecutive tournament.

“I’m tired. I’m very tired. I felt it last night, and then I knew it was a quick turnaround, so I was like, all right, go to bed, just try to get seven hours [sleep],” she said.

“Yeah, my body is definitely feeling it, but knowing me I’ll probably go to the gym this afternoon. It’s just a mental outlet for me. But this is what I play for. This is why I work out and what I train for. I’m definitely tired. I’m looking forward to the three weeks of downtime.”

Thompson will return at The Annika event in Florida, the penultimate LPGA tournament before the CME Group Tour Championship. Currently 82nd in the season-long points standing, Thompson needs to crack the top 60 to reach the finale, which she won in 2018.

“I think I’m moving in the right direction, really just focusing in on the positives and how I’ve played the last few weeks and really building on that,” said Thompson, who signed every autograph and took every selfie requested after her round.

“I’ve always wanted to be out on a PGA Tour event and tee it up, but the biggest thing was seeing the kids out there outside the ropes and then meeting a few of the Shriners ambassadors. That was the most special.”