PRATTVILLE, Ala. – Stacy Lewis is tired of answering the questions. Americans don’t win enough out here. They don’t dominate. They get lost in a sea of Asian flags.
Lewis might be the one to change that.
“I’m trying to do my part,” she said after posting a 7-under 65 Sept. 22 at the Navistar LPGA Classic to lead fellow Texan Angela Stanford by two strokes at 15-under 201. Defending champ Lexi Thompson now trails by five after a 2-over 74. She hit only five fairways Saturday at the RTJ Senator Course at Capitol Hill.
Lewis paces the LPGA Rolex Player of the Year race by 26 points over Jiyai Shin. A victory here in Prattville would give her 30 additional points and three titles in 2012. She also won on the Robert Trent Jones Trail in the spring at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic.
Lewis returns to these events each year in part because both Alabama tournaments gave her sponsor exemptions when she was trying to earn her tour card immediately after college. They’ve treated each other well.
The POY title carries with it great significance, given that an American hasn’t won it since Beth Daniel in 1994. When Dale Lewis sits back and thinks about how far his daughter has come since she had a titanium rod and five screws implanted in her back just before starting college at Arkansas, his mind is slightly blown.
But then again, it’s not a total surprise. Since that surgery, her game has improved each year. Some years, in giant leaps.
“I’m glad we’re not playing alternate shot,” Stanford said jokingly, referring to their lackluster performance together at last year’s Solheim Cup in Ireland. “I think the world of Stacy.”
For Stanford, a victory here would mean a great deal, given that she has won multiple titles in the same year only once in her career. She did that with sunny Dan Chapman on the bag. The two are back together this year after a sizable break.
Stanford said she “broke up” with Chapman partly because she felt she had made him a more negative person. The pair share a common bond in their faith, however, and Stanford realized she needed him back.
“I told my mom I can’t really be an idiot around Dan because he just holds me accountable,” she said.
If things go Stanford’s way on Sunday, she’ll look back on the par-4 12th hole as a significant turning point. After an errant tee shot left her “cozied” up to the lip of a bunker, she was lucky to advance the ball into the fairway. She drained a 40-foot putt to the back-right hole location and couldn’t believe the ball disappeared.
That save built the momentum for her strong finish: birdies on three of the last five holes.
While Stanford ended her round with a bang, Lewis made her big move early with birdies on four of the first five holes. Three of those birdie putts were within 6 feet.
“I knew scoring was going to be low,” said Lewis, who didn’t look at a scoreboard until the 18th. “I just wanted to take care of business.”