Tuesday, July 16, 2024

2023 Shriners Children’s Open: Lexi Thompson battles tough in PGA Tour debut with solid Round 1

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History was made on Thursday in Las Vegas. While the early lead may belong to Beau Hossler after a sensational opening round of 9-under 62, the story was Lexi Thompson at TPC Summerlin. Officially becoming the seventh woman to make an appearance on the PGA Tour when she struck her first tee shot at the 2023 Shriners Children’s Open, the 28-year-old more than held her own against the men in her first 17 holes. She sits 1 over with play suspended due to darkness.

“I had a little bit of nerves, but not too much,” said Thompson. “Kind of similar to Solheim, similar nerves, but that’s kind of what you play for.”

Thompson shot out to red figures early before hitting some turbulence in the middle portion of her front nine. She remained steadfast and held her cool as a bogey-free, 2-under stretch from holes Nos. 9 to 16 secured her place in the meat of the peloton before Friday evening’s cut.

In a share of 76th place at the end of Thursday’s action, the 11-time LPGA winner got the better of a number of her fellow competitors. She is nine strokes better than Tommy Gainey and Vijay Srinivasan and on pace to beat multiple tour winners, including a pair of major champions in Stewart Cink and Jimmy Walker. For those who would argue those two are over the hill, Thompson is also level with Si Woo Kim, Emiliano Grillo and Adam Schenk, all of whom qualified for the 2023 Tour Championship.

Thompson struggled both off the tee and around the green in her first round and ranks outside the top 100 in each strokes-gained metric, but she has made considerable waves with her irons. Gaining nearly a full stroke on the field with her scoring clubs, Thompson ranks 38th in strokes-gained approach. Only Scottie Scheffler and Collin Morikawa averaged more than one stroke gained on approach per round in the 2023 season.

Thompson will face a 21-foot par attempt on the par-3 17th when she returns to the golf course early Friday morning. A conversion could fuel her to even more history; a solid second round may allow her to secure a pair of weekend tee times. With the projected cut line hovering between 1 and 2 under, Thompson has a path to claw her way to this position and would become the first woman since Babe Zaharias in 1945 to make a 36-hole cut on the PGA Tour.

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