RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Stacy Lewis’ game is built for majors. She has five top-10s since ’07, three of which have been at Grand Slam events.
She’s back in contention again. She shot 68 Friday, capped off by a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 9 (her final hole), and is tied for fifth at 5-under 139, two shots behind Song-Hee Kim.
Lewis has the demeanor and skills necessary to succeed when conditions are at their hardest. Lewis isn’t flashy, just solid, a characteristic that’s most beneficial when trying to cope in trying conditions.
“You have to hit the ball well, and you have to hit it straight,” Lewis said. “I like hard golf courses. I’d rather a couple under (par) win, instead of 20 under.”
Lewis said she hasn’t hit the ball as straight as usual this week, but said she puts a lot of spin on her approach shots, which helps her hold greens when she misses fairways. Lewis hit 15 greens in each of the first two rounds.
She has played well this year, though it may not show in her LPGA results. She finished T-22 and T-38 in limited-field events in Asia, and missed the cut last week at the Kia Classic (72-78). Lewis finished in the top 10 in the Women’s Australian Open and ANZ Ladies Masters last month.
In January, she beat several LPGA players to win a mini-tour event in the Orlando area while in town for the PGA Merchandise Show. Lewis played in the final group with Maria Hjorth and Sandra Gal, beating Gal by three shots. Gal is tied for 10th through two rounds this week.
Lewis switched instructors in January to Joe Hallett, who teaches at the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Lewis met him last year while doing a sponsor outing there. They have worked on making sure Lewis’ hands don’t get too high at the top of her backswing, a tendency she has fought much of her career.
“The old swing kind of crept in last week,” she said. “I think I just got my hands really high on top. I was hitting the ball left. I can’t play well when I hit it left. I feel like I’m back on track.”
Now, she’s having more success in majors. She tied for fifth in the ’07 Kraft as an amateur. She went on to win the NCAA Championship later that year, finishing at 6-under par at LPGA International. Only three other players finished under par in that event.
Lewis also has a tie for third at the ’08 U.S. Women’s Open and tie for ninth at last year’s LPGA Championship on her resume. Her other top 10 last year, a tie for fourth at the Wegmans LPGA, came at a tournament and course that will be a major on this year’s schedule.