Lexi Thompson, 29, shocks golf world with retirement announcement

<p>LANCASTER, Pa. - Lexi Thompson has been among the most recognizable players in women’s golf since the former child prodigy turned professional in 2010, ascending as high as No. 2 in the world rankings. On Tuesday, the 11-time LPGA Tour winner made a startling announcement: She will retire from full-time competition at the end of the year.</p> <p>The revelation came two days before Thompson, 29, is set to make her 18th consecutive start in the U.S. Women’s Open, which this year is being held at Lancaster Country Club. This season, the American has missed the cut in her past three starts and in four of six events. Her last win on the LPGA Tour came in 2019.</p> <p>At an emotional news conference during which she paused several times to wipe away tears, Thompson detailed her greatest joys from the game, saying fans - particularly young girls - continue to inspire her even when she’s not playing her best. But she also revealed the anguish she deals with regularly on tour, including criticism on social media that at times turned personal.</p> <p>“Being out here can be a lot,” she said after her afternoon practice round. “It can be lonely. Sorry if I get emotional. I said I wasn’t going to. I just think, especially with what’s happened in golf, as of recent, too, a lot of people - they don’t realize a lot of what we go through as a professional athlete.</p> <p>“I’ll be the last one to say, like, ‘Throw me a pity party.’ That’s the last thing I want. We’re doing what we love. We’re trying the best every single day. You know, we’re not perfect. We’re humans. Words hurt. It’s hard to overcome sometimes, but having people around you that love you and support you, I feel like that’s been the biggest thing for me.”</p> <p>Thompson also indicated her mental health played a role in a decision she had been contemplating for several months. In 2018, Thompson withdrew from the AIG Open and took a one-month leave from the LPGA Tour, writing on social media that she had not been feeling like herself for some time. She came back to win the season-ending Tour Championship and the 2019 ShopRite LPGA Classic, her last two victories on the LPGA Tour.</p> <p>“Unfortunately, in golf you lose more than you win, so it’s an ongoing battle to continue to put yourself out there in front of the cameras and continuing to work hard and maybe not seeing the results you want and getting criticized for it, so it’s hard,” Thompson said. “I will say, yes, I’ve struggled with [mental health]. I don’t think there’s somebody out here that hasn’t. It’s just a matter of how well you hide it, which is very sad.”</p> <p>Thompson’s announcement came three days after two-time PGA Tour winner Grayson Murray, 30, died by suicide, according to his parents.</p> <p>Thompson’s popularity remained intact despite not having won on the LPGA Tour in five years. She spent countless hours signing autographs and posing for pictures with a legion of loyal fans who screamed her name as she walked from the clubhouse to the tee. At the final round of the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open, she shot 34 on the front nine to forge a five-stroke lead, only to falter on the back nine and finish one stroke out of a playoff. Still, she spent roughly half an hour with dozens of young fans in the aftermath of that heartbreak.</p> <p>Thompson’s rise to stardom began early: In 2007, at the age of 12, she became the youngest golfer to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. In 2009, she made the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open after turning 14, and she won her first event when she was 16, then an LPGA record. In 2014, she won the Chevron Championship for the only major title of her career.</p> <p>Thompson also has been a regular member of Solheim Cup teams and represented the United States in the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics. She did not rule out participating in September’s Solheim Cup at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va., if selected as a captain’s pick. Thompson is ranked 54th in the world, well below the threshold to qualify automatically.</p> <p>“She’s had a such an amazing career,” world No. 1 Nelly Korda said. “I’ve gotten to be on the team with her a couple times representing our country. I think she does an amazing job for the tour. She really dedicated her time to growing the game. It’s sad to see that she’s obviously leaving and not going to be out here with us anymore, but she’s had an amazing career and I wish her the best in this new chapter of her life.”</p>