Lexi Thompson during the Aramco Saudi Ladies International Pro-Am. ASLI 2023/Neville Hopwood
American star Lexi Thompson is one of the most decorated, celebrated and well-travelled golfers in the game right now.
With 15 titles, nearly $14 million in the bank from LPGA earnings alone (she has also tasted victory on the Ladies European Tour in Dubai and New York over the past 10 years as a professional), the 28-year-old is still broadening her horizons.
Thompson is in Saudi Arabia for the first time ever this week as she takes part in the loaded $5 million Aramco Saudi Ladies International, and has been getting to grips with the unique demands of the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club course.
“I’m really happy to be here for the first time,” she said. “It’s been exciting so far. I Got to play the golf course, full 18, yesterday, and it’s in amazing shape. It is a little windier today, but just been very welcome so far, so looking forward to get started.”
This will be Thompson’s first tournament since the mixed team QBE Shootout at the start of December, and she is raring to go after an extended break.
“I had quite some time off after I played in the QBE, with quality time with my family and friends to get that relaxation, but at the same time, I trained harder than ever,” she said.
“I worked extremely hard on my game and fitness, and really just trying to keep everything intact, work on a few things in my game, and to keep on improving.
Despite having only seen the course for the first time on Tuesday, Thompson is optimistic she knows what is required.
“It’s an amazing layout. I’ve heard that it plays quite a bit different in the afternoon, especially if it gets super windy and the course maybe dries out a little bit.
“But I played in the morning yesterday and will get nine more (in Wednesday’s Pro-Am). If it gets windy during the tournament, flighting your shots properly and just to start it off getting in the fairway is always No. 1.
“The greens are also a little tricky. There is quite some hills in them, so you need to be getting in the right sections and really thinking about those second shots going into the greens with the pin placements.”
Thompson was also taken aback when she saw the stunning 16th hole on the coast of the Red Sea for the first time.
It is amazing,” she said. “I definitely took quite a few pictures. It’s a beautiful hole, and tricky one, too, so it’s a really good par-3 and there are some beautiful holes out there, but that’s probably my favourite.”
With the prize money up to $5 million — equalling that of the men’s Saudi international and becoming the biggest purse on the LET outside the majors, Thompson is happier about the recognition for the women’s game than the cash up for grabs.
“It’s amazing news,” she said. “Being an athlete and just to see the game grow and move in the right direction. I think we’re moving in the right direction. To be here this week, to be playing for the same prize fund as the men did, it’s quite the accomplishment, and I think it’s just showing that the women’s game is moving in the right direction for us.”