It doesn’t seem to have been much of a hardship for Paul Drummond to take a week off from his family’s car sales business in Carnoustie. Drummond, a 31-year-old plus-two handicap who caddies at the championship links in his spare time, finds himself on the bag for Lexi Thompson at the Women’s Open. The spontaneous alliance is working a treat thus far; Thompson added a 70 to Thursday’s 69 to ease into contention on the Angus coast. Drummond, in branded gear, looks every bit the tour caddie.
Thompson’s regular looper, Jack Fulghum, was unwell amid severe heat at the Olympics. It appears the partnership may have formally ended in any case. Thompson made contact with the Carnoustie caddie master last weekend, with Drummond duly recommended for the highest-profile role of his “other” job. Even the language barrier has delivered no problems. “He speaks very slowly to me,” said the Floridian Thompson of her Scottish assistant. “I’m fully trusting him on his numbers and whether to hit it left or right of the pin and he has been spot on.”
It would be intriguing, in fact, if Thompson wanted this temporary arrangement to become permanent. The prospect has not been completely ruled out.
“I was prepared to get a bag for the week if needed, but I certainly never expected it to be Lexi Thompson,” Drummond said. “There is no real plan. I have a business here in Carnoustie just now and do a bit of caddying on the side, so we’ll just see how it goes.
“On the greens is where I have probably helped the most. If you’ve played here that often, you know the greens like the back of your hand. I just pass on that knowledge. So I’m reading the greens and giving yardages, pretty much.”
The broader Thompson story relates to a painful collapse at this year’s US Women’s Open. Thompson led the event after 54 holes but stumbled to a closing 75. Now 26, Thompson is yet to add to her maiden major victory at the ANA Inspiration in 2014. Glory at Carnoustie, which over the weekend is likely to provide a sterner test than has been the case up to now, would prove a quick redemption tale for the exuberant Thompson.
“I don’t feel like I have any point to prove,” Thompson said. “I feel like I’ve done that already in my career. I don’t think I really, honestly have to prove anything out here. Things like the US Open happen but I played some great golf the whole week.
“Golf is such a crazy, up-and-down game. You just have to take the downs and go with a positive attitude going into the next one and don’t let it compound.”
Thompson’s older brother, Curtis, earned PGA Tour status just days ago via the Korn Ferry Tour. “He has worked extremely hard and gone through slumps as well,” she said. “Just the last few years between the workouts and practice and working with his coach, it has paid off. I think he’ll do so good out there and he’s just in a good head space. He’s the most talented out of us all and we’re very proud of him.”
Thompson finds herself two shy of Georgia Hall at the halfway point. Hall is seeking a second women’s open triumph, three years after lifting the trophy at Royal Lytham & St Annes. “There’s a lot of golf to play but I’m happy with where I am,” said Hall after her 69. “I have a bit more experience now [versus 2018] and there’s a few shots here and there which I might have hit back then which I don’t do now. Apart from that I’m fairly similar. I handle the pressure better. I just feel in my head, I’m more stable.” Mina Harigae’s 67 meant she matched Hall’s aggregate.
Brooke Henderson lurks with menace at four under with Leona Maguire, Yuka Saso and Yealimi Noh among those to join Thompson as one stroke better off. Lizette Salas has Kim Sei-young for company at minus six.
Sophia Popov, the defending champion, produced a painful double bogey at the 18th for a three-over aggregate to trigger an early exit from Scotland. Popov will always have Royal Troon. Laura Davies, who will turn 58 in October, produced a terrific performance to sail into the closing 36 holes at even par. Louise Duncan, the 21-year-old Scottish amateur, did likewise at three under.