Lexi Thompson, on the 534-yard, par-5 1st at the Olympic Club on Sunday, was home in two. She missed the 6-footer for eagle but tapped in for a birdie 4. Her lead was now five strokes with 17 holes to play in the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open. With just eight holes to play, her lead still seemed insurmountable: four.
But that lead, Brandel Chamblee said, might as well have been no shots.
“I don’t think she could have built a big enough lead to have felt comfortable,” the analyst said on the Golf Channel’s Live From postgame show.
Thompson, through a back-nine stretch that saw her make three bogeys and one double on her way to a 41, would, in fact, lose all of that lead, and a missed 10-footer on the 18 would keep her out of a playoff. Chamblee said that first putt, the missed eagle, was a preview of the putts to come. Thompson hit it off the toe, and the ball slid past the right edge of the cup.
“She’s got 6 feet away,” Chamblee said on Live From. “Now professional golfers don’t miss the center of the face by a pinhead. Look where she hits this putt on the very 1st hole. Look where this putt comes off the face. She would have missed the center of the putter there by a half an inch. I have never — I have never — seen a professional golfer miss the center of the putter by a wider margin than that. That was at the 1st hole. …
“When you miss a putt, the center of the face, on the first hole of a major championship, the final round, by that much because — look if you miss the middle of the face by this much [gestures], it feels horrible to you. You feel it all the way through your body. You miss it by that much [gestures], you think to yourself, what just happened here?
“How short does the putt need to be?” analyst Paige Mackenzie said.
“How short does the putt need to be?” Chamblee said. “It needed to be in there. [Chamblee gestures 2 feet.] When I saw that putt, and mind you the scorecard said birdie, but I thought unless she gets an eight-shot lead, nine-shot lead, and her closest competitors fall away, which they did early and I thought, OK, everything is going her way, but they fought back and she shot 41 on the back nine.”
Chamblee said Thompson could win “seven, eight, nine times” a year with her game tee to green. Mackenzie said Thompson, who has won 11 times over a nine-year career, could have “a lot more trophies.”
Then they watch her putt.
“But when you watch her on the greens, she always looks like she has a rattlesnake in her pocket,” Chamblee said. “And that’s tough to overcome.”
“There were so many good things today, Brandel, and that, I think, is the perplexing part of it, is that her great, is really, really great,” Mackenzie said. “Some of the drives that she hit, some of the iron shots that she hit were tremendous. Sbe has a skill set that other players do not have. But it’s impossible to ignore the deficiency on the putting greens. The standard which we measure her is mediocre. If she has a good putting day, it’s a mediocre putting day.”