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TEE TO GREEN, STEVE SCOTT: Lexi Thompson’s collapse was compelling and hard to watch at the same time

Winner In Gee Chunhugs Lexi Thompson after the KPMG LPGA Championship.
Winner In Gee Chunhugs Lexi Thompson after the KPMG LPGA Championship.

It added insult to all too obvious mental injury. Lexi Thompson, fresh from another major championship collapse in the KPMG LPGA Championship, was fined £2000 for slow play.

Men’s PGA champion Justin Thomas, watching at home, called out the LPGA officials at Congressional for not ‘reading the room’ in putting the final group on the clock.

Even for those of us who detest slow play, and the group was over five and three-quarter hours, had some sympathy there. This wasn’t the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, after all.

It’s a small matter to Thompson, who wins $716,000 for second place rather than $718,000. But golf’s pervading narrative of 2022 – money isn’t everything – certainly was true here.

A vivid example

The elite game has had many players who have disintegrated in the heat of battles like these, but I can’t recall such a vivid, obvious example.

Not even the 41 strokes on the Sunday back nine at Olympic in last year’s US Open. Lexi went from five strokes ahead to missing a play-off by a stroke that day.

It was just a two shot lead with three to play this time. But you could actually easily detect the nerves, see the despair. Compelling viewing, but it also made you want to turn away.

The two short putts she missed on 14 and 17 didn’t even hit the hole. The disaster of the 16th, surely an easy birdie given the length Lexi hits the ball, was excruciating.

She didn’t hang around like at Olympic to give a stalwart press conference. Her only public comment was the now time-honoured Instagram defeat special – ‘not the result I wanted, thanks for your support’.

In Gee Chun, who was leaking oil all weekend with a pair of 75s, showed some mental resolve to tough out the final stretch and emerge with the trophy. It’s her third major victory.

American golf’s sweetheart, meanwhile, has just one, won when she was 19 and absent from the cares of the world. You have to wonder whether after this latest heartbreak, she’ll ever win another.

A canny approach by the DP World Tour

The DP World Tour’s positioning on LIV Golf has grown on me in a week.

Rather than the blanket suspension the PGA Tour introduced, Wentworth seems content to play a game of chicken with their LIV rebels.

Fining them each £100,000 per tournament played without a player release puts the ball in the rebels’ court. Do they want to stay a member of the Tour (which they have to be to be Ryder Cup eligible) or pay up fines for every LIV event that clashes?

Of course – and despite a rather awkward ‘will they won’t they’ situation over the weekend – Greg Norman and LIV will pay all fines and the legal fees from any challenge in court. That’s going to take many months to determine, of course.

In the meantime, if Norman’s paying upwards of £1m per LIV event in fines to the tour on behalf of ‘his’ players, that could eventually finance a whole bloody tournament. A Greg Norman DP World Tour Invitational would be quite something.

I’m less impressed with the PGA Tour’s plan to head off the rebels. They’ve found a whole bunch of extra money from somewhere – what was it doing all this time?

Then they’ve basically adopted the first format arrived at by Andy Gardiner’s PGL project and pinched by LIV for a few autumn knockabouts..

Personally I don’t care who is promoting it – murderous regimes, equity financiers, established tours. The locked-in, no-cut, guaranteed money, team format that’s proposed has no appeal to me.

I’m all for bringing in a new audience, although I doubt this format will do that. Certainly golf can’t afford to alienate its existing audience, and I’m fairly confident they’ll just turn over to something properly competitive.

More vocal advocates for the Tour

Max Homa, the clever, thoughtful and recently successful American, expressed sympathy with Rory McIlroy having to take the greatest burden in speaking for the PGA Tour.

Homa doesn’t feel he has the cache quite yet to be an influencer. But as a tour supporter, he wonders whether it’s fair for McIlroy and Justin Thomas to be taking most of the questions on LIV.

Actually, I think a bit of turmoil off course tends to make McIlroy better on the course. His best-ever year was 2014, in the midst of the split from Caroline Wozniacki.

But certainly the tour needs more vocal advocates. Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa have spoken a little bit.

But where is the input from Jordan Spieth (a player director of the tour), Patrick Cantlay, Cam Smith, Xander Schauffele and others? Perhaps they’re wavering.

A day’s sprint for 12 places in the 105th Open

The odds are never great at any golf tournament – okay, maybe not at LIV – but on few occasions are they stacked against competitors than Tuesday’s Open Final Qualifying.

For the 150th Open, the R&A are being generous. Four spots, rather than the usual three, from each of the four venues can win a place at St Andrews.

Dear old Sandy Lyle, no longer exempt at 64, is giving it one final lash. He’s entered at St Anne’s Old Links, which was where he qualified for his first Open in 1974.

In those days FQs was a whirlwind couple of days held at venues close to the host course just a couple of days out from the championship itself.

Now it’s a 36-hole-in-a-day sprint, and the Scottish leg is again at Fairmont St Andrews.

Grant Forrest, who won the Hero Open at the venue last August, is in the field, as is former Scottish Open champion Aaron Rai.

But most tour players are taking their chances with final spots from the Irish and Scottish Open. First LIV winner Charl Schwartzel was originally in the Fairmont field, but he’s opted to go to Portland for the second event on that tour instead.