Thompson was battling history’s headwinds, too. A U.S.-born woman hadn’t won a major since Angela Stanford at the 2018 Evian Championship, and in the five men’s Opens held at the Olympic Club, none of the 54-hole leaders held on to win.
And then there was Thompson’s personal travails in the majors. Since winning the 2014 ANA Inspiration, she had endured several near misses, posting eight top-five finishes, including a playoff defeat at the 2017 ANA Inspiration after a television viewer’s observation led to a four-stroke penalty being tacked to her score on the final day.
Through it all, she preserved traces of the playful, unaffected 12-year-old that qualified for the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open. They were there in her good-luck ladybug earrings, which she wore on Sunday, and her willingness to engage with younger players like Ganne.
Pro is a little word that can pack a bite far deeper than its breadth, and Thompson, who shed her amateur status in 2010, at age 15, was not immune to the loneliness, the self-doubts, the tedium of spending months away from home and the rootlessness of living out of a suitcase that come with playing for pay. Bright-eyed amateurs see only the blessings: the supportive fans, the immaculate courses, the fine clubhouse dining.
And so if she was to get back to her playful, unaffected teenage self, Thompson needed to redirect her focus so that she viewed golf as play and not as work. She enlisted the help of a psychologist based in Florida, John Denney, with whom she had worked early in her career, and their conversations, which they have several times a week, have helped her flip the switch. From feeling anxiety or anguish to gratitude. From feeling burdened by pressure to blessed by opportunities.
Thompson walked the walk. She forced a smile as she exited the 18th green after her approach, from 109 yards, found a bunker, and after she blasted out to 12 feet and left the par putt short.