BELLEAIR, Fla. — Two weeks before the Solheim Cup, U.S. captain Stacy Lewis told Lexi Thompson at the LPGA stop in Cincinnati that she wasn’t going to play her in alternate shot. Thompson could’ve gotten mad, Lewis said, but instead used it as motivation.
When Thompson arrived in Spain, Lewis saw a different player. Armed with a new swing thought from instructor Tony Ruggiero, whom she started working with the month prior, Thompson’s ball-striking returned to form. Players kept coming up to Lewis to tell her that Lexi was back. And the advanced strokes-gained numbers that Lewis received were “off the charts.”
With only a handful of holes left in a Thursday practice round, Lewis asked Thompson and Megan Khang if they could play alternate shot together on Friday, something that hadn’t previously been discussed.
Later that night, Lewis told the team that Thompson was going to hit the first tee shot.
“I can’t tell you the words that were said,” said Lewis, “but everybody was fired up and ready to go.”
Suddenly Thompson, a 28-year-old player who had missed more cuts than she’d made this season, was the leading player on Team USA, and she delivered, with a 3-1-0 record.
While Thompson is reluctant to share what she and Ruggiero work on exactly, the 11-time winner did credit his arrival on the scene with turning her season around.
“He texts me every day,” said Thompson, “asking how I’m doing, keeping in touch. That’s all I need. I just need somebody there to support me and really just there checking in on me. Even if I’m playing good every day, it’s still somebody asking.”
This week, Thompson tees it up in the newly renamed Annika driven by Gainbridge at Pelican, where she’s been runner-up to Nelly Korda the past two seasons. It’s her first start since that inspired run at making the cut on the PGA Tour.
Thompson said Pelican Golf Club, an exclusive club in Belleair, Florida, is in the best shape she’s ever seen it. She appreciates that she can play aggressively here and hit driver more than most tour shops. Her familiarity with Bermudagrass helps massively.
Ruggiero has worked with a number of male touring pros over the years. Former students include Lucas Glover and Robby Shelton. Thompson appreciates his…