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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Can Lexi Seal the Deal?

In case you missed it, Taylor Leon barely missed the cut this week at the Navistar LPGA Classic. The gals at +2 made the cut and Taylor finished +3. She won't go home alone, though -- also at +3 were Cristie Kerr, Natalie Gulbis, and Christina Kim, among others. Jennifer Johnson made the cut easily at -6 (she shot +1 on Friday) and Sara Brown made the cut on the number to raise her record to 2 made cuts in a row. (And 2 made cuts for the year, but we won't get into that. As I said, she's played better on the LET.)

Lexi Thompson seems to have finally gotten her game in shape. Aside from the 10-stroke shellacking she gave 'em at the first stage of LPGA Qualifying, her play has been a mystery this year. But after a 66-68 opener with only 2 bogeys, we have to wonder if maybe she's gotten her mind clear about what she needs to do.

If that sounds like I'm questioning Lexi's ability, it's not intentional. But it seems to me that the slump in her game this year hasn't been so much a matter of mechanics as of focus. After getting permission to play in as many tournaments as she could Monday-qualify for, I wonder if she didn't put too much pressure on herself to perform. The goal ceased to be making a cut, which takes two rounds. Instead, it became getting into the tournament at all, which is a single-round effort.

And bear in mind that the "cut" in a qualifier may be as few as 2 players, although I suspect it's usually 4. Do that week after week, and it's enough to throw anybody's game off.

Have her attempts to play the FuZion Minor League Golf Tour taken some out of her? (That's a men's developmental tour in FL that plays 1-, 2-, and 3-day tournaments. The women play at 94% of the men's distance. You may recall that Lexi won one of these events back in February.) She played a lot early on this year, although I can't see how that would have hurt... unless she was frustrated that she played better in those events than in the big events. Bear in mind that she's played 10 events on the LET, ALPG, and LPGA Tours -- and missed 5 cuts, with her best finish a T19.

Did that blowout win at stage 1 of Q-School initially raise her expectations for her Tour play? It might explain why she struggled so much right afterward.

I just don't know what happened to Lexi this year. What I'm sure of is that something has now changed. Perhaps she's finally decided to focus on Q-School for her card and just play Tour events to help her prepare for the next stage. Maybe that's taken some of the pressure off her game. Again, I don't know.

But whatever has happened, I hope she keeps it up. If she does, she could very well be petitioning the LPGA for full membership after she wins this weekend.

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