LANCASTER, Pa. — Golf is all Lexi Thompson has ever known, and one of the more popular players on the LPGA Tour decided Tuesday this will be her last year playing a full schedule.

Thompson chose the U.S. Women's Open — the major she first played when she was 12 — to announce that she will step away at the end of the year. The 29-year-old American became emotional while talking about the amount of work no one sees and the loneliness she has faced.

Thompson said she has contemplated semi-retirement the last few years and cited mental health as one of the factors that contributed to her decision.

''I think we all have our struggles, especially out here,'' she said. "Unfortunately in golf you lose more than you win, so it's an ongoing battle to continue to put yourself out there in front of the cameras and continuing to work hard and maybe not seeing the results you want and getting criticized for it. So it's hard.

''I will stay, yes, I've struggled with it — I don't think there's somebody out here that hasn't,'' she said. ''It's just a matter of how well you hide it, which is very sad.''

Thompson is playing her 18th U.S. Women's Open before turning 30. She won the first of her 15 LPGA title at age 16. She is known as much for the majors she lost as the one she captured at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2014 when she was 19.

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EDITOR'S NOTE — This story includes a discussion of suicide. If you or someone you know needs help, the national suicide and crisis lifeline in the U.S. is available by calling or texting 988. There is also an online chat at 988lifeline.org.

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She made a vague reference to Grayson Murray, who spoke openly about alcoholism and his struggles with depression and anxiety from life as a tour professional. Murray, who won the Sony Open in January, died by suicide on Saturday.

''Being out here can be a lot. It can be lonely,'' she said as her voice began to crack and she wiped away tears. "I just think — especially with what's happened in golf, as of recent, too — a lot of people don't realize a lot of what we go through as a professional athlete.

''We're doing what we love. We're trying the best every single day. You know, we're not perfect. We're humans. Words hurt. It's hard to overcome sometimes. ... I might not have a huge friend group, but to have the people that matter the most around me have gotten me through some really hard times."

Exactly what semi-retirement means is not clear. Thompson, whose last LPGA victory came nearly five years ago, said she would love to be on the Solheim Cup team one last time. She likes fitness and is launching an app. But it was time to find something else.

''I've only known golf as my life,'' Thompson said. ''So it's nice to branch out and be able to enjoy other things.''

The news surprised LPGA players. The notice was posted, and then deleted, a couple of times on various social media channels. Thompson was on the course when it first went out.

''She really dedicated her time to growing the game,'' Nelly Korda said. ''It's sad to see that she's obviously leaving and not going to be out here with us, but she's had an amazing career, and I wish her the best in this new chapter of her life.''

Thompson was 12 when she qualified for the 2007 U.S. Women's Open at Pine Needles, at the time the youngest ever to qualify. She also set an LPGA Tour record as the youngest winner when she captured the Navistar LPGA Classic at age 16.

Both records since have been broken.

Thompson was a runner-up four times in the majors. She lost a five-shot lead in the 2021 U.S. Women's Open at The Olympic Club with a 41 on the back nine. Most famous was the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2017, and she got emotional talking about that.

She was headed for an easy victory in the final round when the LPGA discovered she improperly marked her golf ball on a green in the third round. She was penalized two shots for the violation and two shots for signing for an incorrect score because of the penalty.

''Is this a joke?'' she said when a rules official informed her on the 13th hole of the final round that she had been docked four shots, turning a three-shot lead into a one-shot deficit. She rallied to force a playoff before losing to So Yeon Ryu.

''That was a huge moment in my career — not a great one,'' she said. ''I look at it as I grew a fan base that I never thought I would have in that moment. It's an unfortunate circumstance, but to be there and to hear chants of my name on 17 coming down the stretch and just to be able to sign all the autographs and go through that moment ... the hardest moment of my career was like a blessing.

"I gained fans that I never thought I would have.''

Thompson grew up playing with two older brothers, both of whom reached the PGA Tour, and she was renowned for her power. She accepted an exemption to play a PGA Tour event in Las Vegas last year, keeping fans in suspense whether she could make the cut until fading.

Thompson could not say how often she would play, only that she would ''take it day by day and see how I feel.''

''But I'm very content with this being my last full-time schedule year,'' she said.

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