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Lexi Thompson will hang up her clubs at the end of the season, and who could possibly blame her?

An onslaught of attention, pressure and scrutiny has eaten away at one of the LPGA’s modern legends and paved an inevitable end.

At 29 years old, the American is competing in her 18th consecutive US Women’s Open. It “was indeed time” to bid an emotional farewell to the only life she’s known.

“Social media never sleeps with comments and criticisms flooding in from around the world,” she explained ahead of this week’s major championship.

“It can be exhausting to maintain a smile on the outside while grappling with struggles on the inside.”

That should come as no surprise.

One look at the comment section that dominates her Instagram page, and you’ll find a message noting: ‘Comments on this post have been limited’.

There is a slither of good in there, but the cynical nature within pays extra notice to the bad. So much so that, despite boasting 400,000 followers at the time, Thompson quit in 2019.

A post on April 27 read: “Hey everybody, just want to say I will be taking a break from social media.

“If I post it will be from my management team for me. I’m too involved with it, and to read some of the hurtful things being said to me lately isn’t fair and I’m not dealing with it.”

On one hand, Lexi’s game has transpired millions, she has become a major champion and smashed records. However, her online presence has rarely yielded positive experiences.

The Floridian burst onto the scene in 2007 as an ecstatic 12-year-old, making her the youngest golfer ever to qualify for the US Women’s Open – later topped by 11-year-old Lucy Li in 2014.

At 15, in 2010, she turned professional, successfully petitioning the LPGA for a waiver to the rule that members must be at least 18 years old.

At 16, she tore up the history books again when she became the youngest-ever winner of an LPGA Tour event.

The list goes on but, ultimately, Thompson has enjoyed a remarkable career and is one of very few who can comfortably retire before the age of 30.

Unfortunately, her hand has been partly forced.

There is little time to come up for air when living in the fishbowl of professional golf, and Thompson was exposed to it without the life skills required to deal with it.

To her immense credit, she was a major champion at 19, a Solheim Cup winner at 20 and a seven-time tour winner by 21. In other sports, champions are only beginning to flourish. Meanwhile, Thompson was already past her peak.

Quite frankly, the now 11-time LPGA Tour winner had accrued a CV well beyond her years – all whilst the lonely pursuit was made worse by, admittedly, a lack of peers. Social media has far from picked her up.

“I might not have a huge friend group,” she said on Tuesday before thanking the people who “matter the most” and have helped her through some ‘really hard times’.

“Being out here can be a lot. It can be lonely. Especially with what’s happened in golf, as of recently too, a lot of people don’t realise a lot of what we go through as a professional athlete.

“I’ll be the last one to say like throw me a pity party. That’s the last thing I want.

“We’re doing what we love. We’re trying our best every single day. You know, we’re not perfect. We’re humans. Words hurt. It’s hard to overcome sometimes.”

Words have hurt others. Thompson isn’t the first, and she certainly won’t be the last. And while we might have seen the best of Lexi, the game is undoubtedly worse off without.

Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy have made clear that they stay away from the ‘poisonous’ chalice of social media.

Tyrrell Hatton is another who – as of last month – revealed that he ditched it in the wake of abuse he received for joining LIV Golf.

Before it’s too late, let’s hope they don’t leave the game, too.

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John Turnbull A graduate of the University of Stirling, John joined the bunkered team in 2023 as a Content Producer, with a responsibility for covering all breaking news, tour news, grassroots content and much more besides. A keen golfer, he plays the majority of his golf at Falkirk Golf Club. Top of his 'bucket list' is a round of Pebble Beach... ideally in the company of Gareth Bale.

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