(March 17, 2013)-Stacy Lewis needed a really low round and a little luck to win the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup in Phoenix, AZ this weekend. She got both shooting a final round of 64 to not only win her second tournament of the year but also to claim the top spot in women’s golf.
Lewis began the day four shots behind the leader Ai Miyazato thanks in part to a two-stroke penalty she incurred during Saturday’s round. She was questioned after the end of the third round about whether or not her caddy had tested the sand of a bunker that Lewis was in on the 16th hole. Although Lewis did not initially believe her caddy was at fault she did agree to the penalty that doubled Miyazato’s lead going into the final round.
It was the 16th hole that gave Lewis a gift on Sunday when the ever so steady Miyazato pulled a pitching wedge into the desert, which resulted in a double bogey. It was a rare miss for the Japanese player with nine LPGA wins and who appeared on her way to her tenth. Lewis took advantage of the error and birdied the hole which resulted in a two shot swing and gave her the lead which she would not relinquish finishing at -23 to win by three.
The bigger prize for Lewis is she also surpassed Yani Tseng as the number one player in the world, a position Tseng has held for 109 weeks. Lewis becomes the second American player to claim this prestigious ranking after Cristie Kerr held the post for five weeks in 2010.
For Lewis simply being able to play golf is a miracle considering that she was diagnosed with scoliosis as a teenager and was forced to wear a back brace for up to 18 hours a day. Surgery was eventually required which put a rod and five screws in her back.
‘It’s crazy,” Lewis said after her round about becoming the new number one player. ”That was my goal kind of since the middle of last year and I really didn’t think it would be possible this quick. … I’m going to have fun, I know that. I watched Yani struggle with it for too long and I’m going to go have fun.”
Lewis is one of the most liked players on the tour and she is also one of the most generous. Her signature was barely dry on her scorecard this afternoon before she donated $50,000 of her winners check to the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf foundation.
For Tseng who finished T59th this weekend it seems that holding that number one ranking for so long had become a burden for the 24 year old. Her last win came a year ago at the Kia Classic and was part of an up and down season which featured three wins as well as a stretch when Tseng struggled to even make the cut. Compared to 2011 when she won seven times including two majors, 2012 was clearly a disappointment.
Tseng spoke with the Associated Press early last week about the possibility of losing the top spot and she didn’t seem too upset to see it go.
“It’s tough and it’s very lonely. No one knows how do you feel. Everybody wants to be in your shoes, but no one knows how tough is that. The first year, when I was world No. 1, I feel good. But every month, everybody keeps building the expectations on me and that’s lots of pressure. World No. 1, I know it’s good and people like it, but I want to care about myself more. If I lose (it), I’ll get back one day, too.”
Lewis on the other hand appears ready to embrace the challenge that few have held in women’s golf. The Stacy Lewis era has begun and golf fans are in for quite a treat.