Keeping with tradition, we’ll soon name GOLF‘s Player of the Year for 2017. We should hand the hardware to this month’s cover subject, Lexi Thompson, right now. Even without a major and only two wins this year, she’d get my vote. The Puma-clad pride of Coral Springs, Fla., heaved up a season of thrills like we’ve never seen from the women’s circuit, all while staking her claim as the female face of American Golf. I don’t know about you, but I like my golf heroes larger than life, able to pull off what my game can’t replicate, let alone fathom. Ms. Thompson amply fits the bill.
We marvel when players dominate, á la Tiger Woods at the 2000 U.S. Open. We’re equally struck when they don’t, yet remain resilient—the real hero stuff. In April, the four-stroke penalty laid on Lexi between the 12th green and the 13th tee during the final round of the ANA Inspiration should have crushed her spirit like a hammer on a flan. It didn’t. Fighting back tears—check that, covered in tears—she piped a drive on 13, carding birdie to crawl back within one of leader So Yeon Ryu. (Thompson went from two up to two down after the assessment.) “With elite athletes,” says sports-performance guru Bhrett McCabe, of the Mindside.com, “the desired outcome always rings louder than the voice in their head telling them to stop.” In Lexi’s case, the ringing must have been deafening. She never stopped, forcing a playoff and the second of five runner-up finishes in 2017.
Some five months later, at the Solheim Cup, staring at a four-hole deficit at the turn in her singles match against Anna Nordqvist, resiliency struck again. The Blonde Bomber went off, shooting 7-under over the final nine to gain a half-point for Team USA. Resilient—even for a superhero. The financial spoils came 20 days later with a runaway victory at the Indy Women of Tech, Lexi’s ninth career win. She’s 22.
A helluva year. A toast to resiliency. An American icon is taking shape before our eyes. Good for Lexi. Good for golf.