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Rose Zhang says she is “excited to see what’s next” for Lexi Thompson after she announced her surprise retirement at the age of just 29.

While Zhang was announcing herself to the world in a season that included becoming the first LPGA player to win on her professional debut since Beverly Hanson in 1951, three major top tens, and Solheim Cup debut, Thompson’s career was going in the other direction.

A run of eight missed cuts in 11 left the Floridian questioning her desire to keep going at the top level, but she got over the shanks at Finca Cortesin to put three points on the board for her team – and that seemed to light a fire inside her and she ended the season with four straight top-eight finishes.

But Thompson struggled to rediscover that energy for the start of the 2024 season, and after four straight missed weekends on the bounce – and a fifth in six starts – she made her shock announcement to the world.

rose zhang lexi thompson
Max Homa, Lexi Thompson, Rose Zhang and Rory McIlroy took part in The Match IX in February. (Credit: Getty Images)

Zhang, though, could not be more proud of her Solheim Cup teammate, with whom she also played in the ninth edition of The Match, for everything she’s done for the sport.

“She’s been on the tour for long as I can remember,” Zhang tells bunkered. “Even when I just started golf, we already all knew who Lexi Thompson was.

“As a junior golfer, around 12 or 13, I volunteered at the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills, and I remember explicitly the moment when you see Lexi, and you know she’s Lexi.

“She’s made a huge impact to this game, she’s inspired thousands of young golfers, and female golfers, and has been super empowering to the sport and for her to really leave this tour in the shape that it is.

“She’s been so pivotal in just bringing exposure to women’s golf.”

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Laughing off suggestions of a “passing of the torch”, Zhang added: “I’m super excited for her.

“I got to know her, not just from Solheim Cup but from The Match too, and we played a lot of major championships together. We got paired up together at the US Open this year. And yes, things didn’t go our way, but the encouragement that she got from the fans and the amount of love that she’s been showered with – she deserves it all.

“And I’m excited to see what’s next, and what she does in her career later on, because she has the platform and the abilities to do some pretty incredible things, and not just in the golf world.”

Thompson, who began her LPGA career aged just 12, will play in her last event at the Grant Thornton Invitational in December.

Rose Zhang spoke to bunkered as part of our Solheim Cup preview in issue 214 – available via subscription or in all good newsagents on July 24.  

author headshot

Alex Perry is the Associate Editor of bunkered. A journalist for more than 20 years, he has been a golf industry stalwart for the majority of his career and, in a five-year spell at ESPN, covered every sporting event you can think of. He completed his own Grand Slam at the 2023 Masters, having fallen in love with the sport at his hometown club of Okehampton and on the links of nearby Bude & North Cornwall.

Associate Editor

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