Lexi Thompson smiling again after Florida win

Lexi Thompson walks up the 18th fairway on her way to victory at the LPGA CME Group Tour Championship in Florida.  Picture: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Lexi Thompson walks up the 18th fairway on her way to victory at the LPGA CME Group Tour Championship in Florida. Picture: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
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It may not have proved good timing for her Scottish caddie,
Kevin McAlpine, after the pair had parted ways before the event but Lexi Thompson ended a tough year with a welcome smile back on her face.

The American, who sat out the Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham earlier in the year at the height of demons she was battling on and off the course, returned to winning ways with an impressive victory in the LPGA’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Florida.

Thompson closed with a 70 for an 18-under-par 270 total, winning by four shots from compatriot Nelly Korda in an event that also saw Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, winner of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open at Gullane in July, crowned as the circuit’s No 1.

“This year has been an eye opener,” admitted Thompson as she celebrated a success that makes this the sixth consecutive year that she won at least once. “It all kind of hit me this year after what happened last year.”

She was referring to both her mother, Judy, having been diagnosed with cancer and her grandmother passing away, as well as the penalty she suffered for breaking the rules in one of the women’s majors, the ANA Inspiration.

“I kind of just tried to brush it off last year and just play through it because I didn’t really have an option and I played great golf. I don’t know how, but I managed to,” she added.

“But it all kind of hit me this year and just kind of got me really down. I needed that time off to be with my family, to 
figure out things that made me happy off the golf course.”

On the PGA Tour, Charles Howell III ended an 11-year drought with victory in the RSM Classic, holing a 15-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a play-off with Patrick Rodgers in Georgia. The win secured a return trip for Howell to his hometown of Augusta next April for a first Masters appearance since 2012.

“Quite honestly, I didn’t know if I would ever win one again,” admitted Howell as he celebrated his first success since landing the Nissan Open in Los Angles in 2007. “I had come up short so many times.”

He had finished 16 runner-up times on the circuit and finished third nine times.