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BETHESDA, Md. – In the shadow of the nation’s capital, the LPGA’s most tortured American star suffered heartbreak once more at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Eight years after Lexi Thompson won her first major, she fell just short of her second.
The golf world held its collective breath for a woman who has experienced more heartbreak inside the ropes than anyone in recent memory. Thompson hadn’t won in 50 starts on the LPGA, and her penchant for short missed putts – the kind of jab that looks like a kid next to a hot stove – haunted her down the stretch.
In Gee Chun opened with a course-record 64 at the KPMG Women’s PGA to storm out to a five-shot lead after the first round. By early Saturday, she was seven clear of the field.
But that near perfect play began to unravel late Saturday and Chun slept on – only – a three-stroke lead in pursuit of her third different major title. Chun became an LPGA member after winning the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open and then recorded the lowest 72-hole score in major championship history at the 2016 Amundi Evian Championship.
Shades of a runaway victory similar to Rory McIlroy’s at the 2011 U.S. Open covered Congressional until Sunday. Suddenly there was an anything-can-happen vibe with major champions Thompson, Hannah Green and Sei Young Kim within striking distance along with super rookies Hye-Jin Choi and Atthaya Thitikul.
Thompson struck fast, birdieing the first hole to cut the lead to two strokes and it wasn’t long before the American was in command as Chun came unraveled with a front-nine 40.
Thompson led by two with nine holes to play.
Lexi Thompson plays her shot from the fifth tee during the final round of the 2022 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports)
But the ghosts of short misses that have haunted her in pressure-packed moments came to visit on the back nine. A two-foot par putt on the 14th hole that never had a chance was the most egregious.
With Minjee Lee breathing down her back and the lead cut to one, Thompson poured in a statement birdie putt from just off the green on the 15th to push her lead to two with three to play.
A tournament that looked like the ending had been written at the halfway point suddenly had an endless supply of dramatic turns.
After a short miss for par on the 17th, Lee stuffed her approach on the 18th to post the clubhouse lead at 4 under.
Then Thompson made a mess of the par-5 16th, dropping four strokes with a series of miscues around the green to make bogey and fall into a tie with Chun at 5 under.
On the 18th, Thompson gave herself a birdie chance to tie Chun at 5 under, stuffing her approach to about 10 feet but Thompson didn’t hit a firm putt, leaving it short and right. She posted a final-round 73 to finish at 4 under.
Moments later, Chun had a four-footer for par for the championship and she made it to win her third different women’s major.
Chun shot 75-75 on the weekend yet pulled out the victory to break her 0-for-75 winless streak worldwide.
Thompson tied Lee for solo second, one shot back.