Seven shots back to start the round, Stacy Lewis picked up her fourth LPGA victory of the season by carding a final-round, 8-under 64 to leapfrog overnight leader Bo-Mee Lee by a single shot at the Mizuno Classic in Shima-Shi, Mie, Japan.
Here are 5 Things to take away after Lewis’ fifth career victory:
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1. WHAT A FINISH: Lewis, No. 2 in the Rolex Rankings behind Yani Tseng, put all the pressure on Lee after she finished with three consecutive birdies to get to 11 under overall. Lewis had 10 birdies and two bogeys on the day.
Lee had three holes to play when Lewis finished her round, but could only muster three pars and missed a birdie opportunity on No. 18 to force a playoff.
“I felt it was coming yesterday,” Lewis said. “I played really solid yesterday; I just didn’t make any putts. But to makes those three putts I made coming down the stretch was unbelievable. I didn’t really think I was playing this well coming into the week but I just started playing better and better every day. Putts just started falling today and it was meant to be.”
Lewis admits to being a leaderboard watcher, but did she take a gander on Sunday?
“I did. I’m a leaderboard watcher whether I play well or not just to see what’s going on,” she said. “I felt comfortable with my putter no matter what so it didn’t really matter.”
Lewis, who earned $180,000 for the victory, fired rounds of 71-70-64. Her best finish at the Mizuno was a T-6 in 2011.
Lewis has 15 top-10 finishes in 2012 in only 22 starts. The victory adds 30 points to her Rolex Player of the Year push, and she now leads Inbee Park by 58 points as the season winds down.
“It’s nice,” Lewis said, who would be the first American to win the award since Beth Daniel in 1994.
“I was trying to win the tournament this week, but I figured everything will just take care of itself. I just got in my own way these past couple of weeks. These last two rounds, this is the most fun I’ve had all year. So it’s been a great couple of days.”
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2. NERVY FINISH: Bo-Mee Lee held a four-shot advantage over Rikako Morita heading into the final round, but an even-par round of 72 left the door wide open for Lewis to come charging through and grab the title away from the JLPGA standout.
Lee says she had a lot on her mind.
“There was a lot of tension today. I had lots of worries like if I won whether I would join the LPGA or not,” she said. “So I think that made me a little nervous.”
Lee has 14 top-10 finishes on the JLPGA Tour this season.
“I am happy. I wanted to move up in the money rankings, and I did,” she said. “There are two more tournaments this season so I’m looking forward to closing out the season and hopefully with one more win.”
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3. SHOWING SIGNS: A familiar name is beginning to creep back toward the top of leaderboards again.
World No. 1 Yani Tseng polished off a fourth-place finish in Japan behind a final-round, 4-under 68 to take home $61,461. She finished four shots back of Lewis.
The Mizuno finish is coming on the heels of back-to-back third-place finishes at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship and LPGA KEB Hanabank Championship. The three top-5s are her first inside the top 10 since a T-10 in April at the LPGA Lotte Championship.
Tseng won three times in the first three months of 2012.
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4. THEY’RE INVITED: With Lewis already securing a spot in the season-ending CME Group Titleholders at Twin Eagles in Naples, Fla., three others earned spots by solid finishes in Japan.
Pornanong Phatlum, Jennifer Song and Alison Walshe were the three automatic qualifiers that come from each LPGA tournament.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Inbee Park, who has been trying to chase down Lewis in the Player of the Year race, finished T-17 after rounds of 70-73-70 . . . Beatriz Recari birdied six of her first seven holes en route to a 4-under 68 on Sunday . . . Miki Sakai withdrew from the tournament prior to the final round with an injury . . . Only 31 of the 79 players in the field finished the three-round tournament under par . . . Anna Nordqvist picked up her ninth top 10 of the season with a T-5 finish.