LAS VEGAS — Lexi Thompson delivered moments of star power made for a setting like Las Vegas, and when she sank a pair of long birdie putts on Friday, she was on the cusp of history.
Thompson was 4 under with seven holes left. In her sights was the opportunity to become the first woman in 78 years to make the 36-hole cut on the PGA Tour.
A bad swing, a mediocre chip and a missed putt at the end left her missing the cut at the Shriners Children’s Open, but she was no less proud of two days she won’t soon forget. She wanted to inspire children to pursue their dreams and she did all of that at TPC Summerlin.
“Playing with the guys – an amazing feeling,” Thompson said after a 2-under 69. “Growing up with guys, I always wanted to be at a PGA Tour event and play. But the biggest thing was seeing the kids outside the ropes and then meeting some of the Shriners ambassadors. That was the most special.”
His golf came in second place.
Thompson made five birdies in a 10-hole stretch, only to make two bogeys late and miss a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole. He had rounds of 73-69 to finish at par 142, missing the cut by three strokes.
Lanto Griffin had five consecutive birdies for a 66, while Cameron Champ had a 67 in the morning wave. They shared the lead at 130, 12 under par. Henrik Norlander (64) was another shot behind, with Canadian Open champion Nick Taylor (67) and JT Poston (69) two behind.
“I’m very proud. I played very well today,” said Thompson, who hit 12 of 14 fairways and only missed four greens. “As the day went on, I tried to stay committed to my goals and my thoughts about the swing and just enjoyed the whole experience.”
Her 69 was one shy of the record by a woman on the PGA Tour: Michelle Wie twice shot 68 at the Sony Open in Hawaii, once when she was 14 when she missed the cut by one stroke. Thompson’s 2-under score tied Wie’s second rounds at the 2004 and 2006 Sony Open for the lowest score by a woman in a round in PGA Tour history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“I knew I had to play my best game,” Thompson said, adding that golf was just one part of his stay in Las Vegas. “Coming into the week there was more of a message than just playing golf. Inspiring kids, that’s what I enjoy the most.”
It looked like Thompson might be present for all four days.
He finished the first round, which had been suspended by darkness, missing a 20-foot par putt on the 17th hole and making a difficult par putt on the 18th for a 73. He then began his second nine with a bogey on the hole. 17. Tenth hole.
But the 28-year-old American came back to life. He stuffed his approach to 4 feet on the 11th for birdie. He was just off the green on the par-5 13th and took two putts for birdie. He drove the 296-yard 15th green for a two-putt birdie.
Thompson made the turn and quickly holed a birdie putt from just 25 feet for birdie, and then sank a birdie putt from just 30 feet.
She was 4 under par in the 11-hole round and 2 under par in the tournament.
“I knew once I had made some birdies in a row I would be a little close, but I knew the cut line was going to keep getting lower and lower with these guys, especially without a lot of wind,” Thompson said.
“I tried to stay focused on my game and my swing thoughts, picking small targets and staying 100% committed.”
Everything changed with a single stroke and a smart decision. His tee shot on the par-3 fifth was well to the right toward the native area, the pin toward the right side of the green. Instead of taking a big risk by trying to get out of the wilderness, he took a drop penalty for a clean lie 98 yards from the hole and hit the wedge to 5 feet to escape with a bogey.
His hopes were dashed on the long par-3 eighth. His 2 iron went just over the green. She jumped weakly to 12 feet and missed the par putt. Needing a birdie on the par-5 ninth to have any chance, she jumped 6 feet down the cup and missed the putt.
The cut was at 1 under when he walked off the ninth green, but he was already at 2 under after signing his card and, under ideal scoring conditions, was destined to go lower.
Thompson was the seventh woman to play on the PGA Tour. Babe Didrikson Zaharias was the last to make a 36-hole cut in 1945.
It was never about winning. Thompson was 11 shots off the lead after the first round. She finished tied for 85th out of 132 players.
Still, Thompson had a standout moment in an otherwise difficult year. He hasn’t won on the LPGA Tour in more than four years and was in danger of losing his LPGA card until he posted a pair of top 10s before arriving in Las Vegas.
Thompson said she would take the next few weeks off before returning to the LPGA in Florida to conclude the season.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.