The field at this week’s QBE Shootout is comprised of 23 PGA Tour players and one LPGA Tour star. Through the first day, it was Lexi Thompson’s powerful ball-striking that was turning heads.
“She hits the ball incredibly and she made a lot of putts, which took a lot of pressure off me,” said Tony Finau, Thompson’s partner in the team event. The duo shot 11-under 61 in the scramble format and sat just one shot off the lead heading to the weekend. But Finau wasn’t the only player Thompson impressed. Harold Varner and Bubba Watson, who shot 10-under 62, played in the same group and were keenly aware that Thompson’s drives weren’t lagging far behind.
“She hammered it off the first hole, he goes, ‘Oh, gosh.'” Watson said of his partner, who agreed.
“I was so nervous.”
Watson continued. “No. 9, No. 9, she hit a good one on 9. You were like, “Oh, my gosh, she outdrove me.”
“I mean, I’m surprised she didn’t,” Varner said. “She hits it really well.”
A certain 14-time major champion was apparently keeping track of Lexi’s length, too. Watson let slip that Tiger Woods texted in a pointed question to the duo: “How many times did Lexi outdrive Harold?”
Watson didn’t refer to Woods by name, cheekily talking about “The Presidents Cup captain” instead (Woods will be the captain at the 2019 Presidents Cup). You can see the light-hearted exchange below:
BUBBA WATSON: I’m not going to drop any names, but we have a text from the Presidents Cup captain that said, “How many times did Lexi outdrive Harold?”
HAROLD VARNER III: What a nice guy.
BUBBA WATSON: That’s the captain you want to play for.
HAROLD VARNER III: Yeah, exactly.
BUBBA WATSON: Exactly. No names, but if you all know who the captain is.
Thompson ranked fourth in driving distance on the LPGA Tour in 2018, with her average tee shot going 272.6 yards. Varner hits it it long even by PGA Tour standards; he finished 2018 with a driving distance average over 308 yards, good for 18th on Tour.
The frenetic interview finished with another entertaining exchange when Watson took a call from Justin Thomas mid-question. Thomas gamely chimed in.
JUSTIN THOMAS (via phone): Bubba, he’s a great person, I just really like Bubba. He’s a great golfer, his candy’s good.
BUBBA WATSON: What about Harold? Got anything about Harold?
HAROLD VARNER III: What are you doing, JT?
JUSTIN THOMAS (via phone): Hey, what’s up, HV? How’d you guys play today?
BUBBA WATSON: Great. We got beat.
HAROLD VARNER III: Lexi didn’t outdrive me, though.