Bronson Burgoon, a relative unknown on the PGA Tour, recently said after playing a tournament round with Tiger Woods that he’d never seen anything like it.
“I've played with Jordan [Spieth] and Rickie [Fowler],” Burgoon said. “They bring a crowd, but nothing [like Tiger]. I mean, that's a sea of people. Unbelievable.”
It’s a similar scene on the LPGA Tour when Lexi Thompson is in the field. It’s a tournament director’s dream to secure her commitment, doubling as a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
“That definitely makes your day,” Marathon Classic tournament director Judd Silverman said. “The thing I admire a lot about Lexi is just the type of person she is and the way she handles herself. She’s a true professional. She always gives back by attending functions and doing extra things for charities. She sets a great example for younger players and the whole tour. She’s a star. It’s always great to have Lexi in the field.”
Thompson is making her fifth appearances at the Marathon Classic, where she’s never finished lower than 18th. She tied for third in 2013 and was runner-up last year to I.K. Kim. Thompson’s score of 17-under-par 267 would have tied or won all but five previous Marathon Classics.
She’s the top-ranked American and fifth in the world rankings, but Thompson hasn’t won since capturing the inaugural Indy Women in Tech Championship in September. The lack of a victory in 2018 isn’t necessarily a blemish on her record, though. She has five top-10 and has finished inside the top 20 in all three major championships. Thompson hasn’t missed a cut since March of 2017 and she rolls into Sylvania, a town that’s treated her well, having done everything but won in recent weeks: third, fifth, ninth, 15th.
“I feel like my game's in a great spot,” said Thompson, who won’t play again until the British Open Aug. 2-5. “I've had a few good tournaments the past weeks that I've played and took a nice week off last week. So definitely refreshed, feel good about my game, and it's always nice to come back to Marathon Classic.
“The course is in great shape once again. It's always in good shape when we come here to Toledo. It's a little softer this year than it was last year. It got really firm last year. Greens are fast, looking forward to the week.”
Thompson is the LPGA Tour’s most marketable star, with endorsement deals from Lexus, Zurich, Puma, Red Bull, Smucker’s, Cobra, and Bridgestone. She transcends the sport, attracting fans of essentially every age and demographic — young girls, adult men, middle-aged women, and teenage boys. Thompson covers every end of the spectrum.
Her social media activity — Thompson regularly answers fans’ questions — and on-course aptitude translates well in an era where accessibility and success are the predominant traits viewers crave.
"That day at ANA [when Thompson was given a four-stroke penalty and lost in a playoff], she stayed for 45 minutes to an hour doing TV interviews and signing autographs until the last person was there,” LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan said last year. “I remember thinking to myself not just golf, but what other athlete in the world would have done that?”
Still just 23-years-old, Thompson feels like a grizzled veteran. She stormed into the golf world in 2007 after qualifying for the U.S. Open as a 12-year-old. A missed cut didn’t dampen Thompson’s enthusiasm or the hoopla surrounding her potential. She became a member of the LPGA Tour at 17 in 2012, one year after she became the youngest winner in tour history at 16 years, seven months, and eight days.
In the subsequent years, she’s won nearly $8 million, including a major, and risen to as high as second in the Rolex Rankings. Her prodigious length — Thompson ranks third in driving distance — and striking physique are hallmarks of her imposing style.
“I absolutely love my fans, especially to see little kids out here supporting and giving me high fives,” Thompson said. “It's honestly the best feeling ever. There's nothing like it. Just hearing the crowds cheer every time I make a birdie or hit a good shot, or even if I have a rough hole, they're there cheering me on. That means more to me than anything, that they're there for me even if I'm struggling.”
Which for the accomplished Thompson isn’t often.
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