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Lexi Thompson responds to familiar faces, places

Lexi Thompson and brother Curtis Thompson 1st round 2020 CME Group Tour Championship
Lexi Thompson, with her brother Curtis on the bag, takes the 1st-round lead at the LPGA’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship on Thursday in Naples, Fla.

With her brother Curtis on the bag, Thompson shoots 7-under 65 for 1st-round lead at LPGA’s CME Group Tour Championship

Lexi Thompson felt right at home Thursday in the first round of the LPGA’s CME Group Tour Championship, and with good reason.

Competing in her home state of Florida and with her brother Curtis on the bag, Thompson played near-flawless golf in grabbing the first-round lead in the season-ending event.

Thompson, who grew up across the peninsula in Coral Springs, made eight birdies in posting a 7-under 65 for a one-stroke lead at Ritz-Carlton’s Tiburon Golf Club (scores).

“It's great to have him on the bag,” Thompson, 25, said of her 28-year-old brother, who also is a touring professional and won on the Korn Ferry Tour this year. “I always cherish every opportunity we get to spend together. But to have him out there, he's always joking and keeping me loose. Obviously playing great helps. Always keeps a smile on the face.”

Thompson birdied five of her first seven holes before her only misstep of the day, a bogey at the par-4 ninth. She reclaimed the stroke at the par-3 12th before finishing birdie-birdie for her lowest 18-hole score of the year.

“I love coming to Naples,” said Thompson, who won the 2018 Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club. “It is definitely one of my favorite events.”

Thompson already has amassed 11 victories on the LPGA, but she hasn’t won in the past 18 months.

“I just wanted to go into this week and just play relaxed golf,” said Thompson, who missed the cut last week in the U.S. Women’s Open at Houston’s Champions Golf Club and has only two top-10 results in 11 starts this year. “I've been stressing a lot, just trying to get my game where I think it should be, but instead I just went out and tried to have fun with my brother on the bag.”

Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen shot a bogey-free 66 to stand solo second.

Defending champion Sei Young Kim of South Korea shared third with American Megan Khang and Germany’s Caroline Masson at 67.

The $3 million purse offers $1.1 million to the winner for the richest top prize on the women’s tour. The event comes one week after the $1 million payday that A Lim Kim earned for winning the U.S. Women’s Open. Kim and Sophia Popov, the reigning Women's British Open champion, did not qualify for the 72-player event because they were not LPGA Tour members when they won their major championships and thus did not accrue points in the season standings.

American Natalie Gulbis, who has attracted scrutiny for having received a sponsor exemption despite having made no cuts in her past 18 starts spanning two years, shot 5-over 77 and was in last place. Australia’s Sarah Kemp, who was awarded the other exemption because of her role as a CME Group spokeswoman, shot 72 and is tied for 36th.

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