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Lexi Thompson practiced until her hands bled and now leads the field at LPGA's season-ending CME

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NAPLES, Fla. – Lexi Thompson practiced until her hands bled after she returned to Florida from a missed cut at the U.S. Women’s Open. More than anything, she was searching for a good rhythm. She certainly found something toiling in the dirt as an opening 7-under 65 put Thompson atop the board at the CME Group Tour Championship on Thursday.

The 25-year-old has won every season on the LPGA dating back to 2013. This week is her last chance to keep that streak alive.

“I just wanted to go into this week and just play relaxed golf,” said Thompson, who won this event in 2018. “I’ve been stressing a lot just trying to get my game where I think it should be, but instead I just went out and just tried to have fun with my brother on the bag.”

CME Group Tour Championship: Leaderboard

Older brother Curtis Thompson, who won earlier this year on the Korn Ferry Tour, said he has one main job this week: read the putts.

“That’s it,” he said, “that’s what I’m there for.”

There are a number of holes at Tiburon Golf Club that set set up nicely for Thompson’s 3-wood draw up the right side. It’s a comfortable feeling for the American star, who typically competes here in the QBE Shootout as well but missed it this year because it conflicted with the U.S. Women’s Open.

Nanna Koerstz Madsen carded a bogey-free 66 to trail by one while defending champion Sei Young Kim sits in a tie for third with Megan Khang and Caroline Masson. Kim trails Inbee Park by six points in the LPGA Rolex Player of the Year race. She must post at least a top-five finish to have a chance of besting Park, who shot 1 under. Kang, who matched Park’s effort, needs to win.

Germany’s Masson played alongside Thompson on Thursday and cranked up the dial on the back nine with an eagle on the par-4 13th.

“I had a pretty good number for a 9-iron, a little downwind, and kind of hit the shot I wanted and it pitched on top and just released a little bit. I kind of wasn’t really looking anymore because I thought it was good, but I didn’t realize it would go in. … I holed out in the pro-am on Tuesday as well. So I’m hoping that they come in three this week.”

Overall, Masson said her greens in regulation stats have been the worst of her career, but her performance on the greens has helped to make up for it. The 31-year-old ranks 52nd in greens hit on tour, down from fifth last year.

Nearly half the field broke par in the opening round (35 players), a striking contrast to last week’s brutally cold and soggy test, where pars were held at a premium.

Kim’s final-round 76 in Houston didn’t include a single birdie. Three days later, she’s back near the top of the board and smiling broadly. She chalked it up to higher temps and fewer layers of clothing giving her more freedom to swing aggressively.

Thompson had instructor Joe Hallett out watching her earlier this week and her dog, Leo, took in all 18 holes during the first round, where she hit 13 fairways, 15 greens and took 26 putts.

Knowing how his sister felt about the season coming into this week, Curtis was most impressed with the effort.

“To see her go out there and still grind it out like she’s playing as good as she ever has,” said Curtis, “that’s what it takes.”

original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/12/17/lexi-thompson-leads-lpga-cme-group-tour-championship/

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