PHOENIX – After the last putt dropped, Stacy Lewis turned and pointed a finger toward caddie Travis Wilson. “That’s for you,” she said while giving him a hug.
One day after Lewis and Wilson went under the microscope for a rules infraction on the 16th hole, they found vindication on the same par 4 with a pivotal three-shot swing against the silky smooth Ai Miyazato. Another birdie on the 17th put a dagger in Japan’s sweetheart, who had led the RR Donnelley Founders Cup for 69 holes.
Lewis won by three strokes, and with the title, took the No. 1 position from Yani Tseng, who had held it for 109 weeks. Tseng took to Twitter to congratulate her friend, saying “You deserve this World No. 1.”
“Almost 10 years ago I was going into surgery to put a rod and five screws in my back,” Lewis said. “I’m really not supposed to be here.”
It was quite a 24-hour swing for Lewis, who found out after Saturday’s round that she had incurred a two-stroke penalty under Rule 13-4 after Wilson tested the surface of a fairway bunker on No. 16 with his feet. It widened Lewis’ deficit behind Miyazato to four, and left Wilson, a caddie of 21 years and big brother to Stacy, absolutely gutted.
“It’s a huge weight,” Wilson said after the victory. “I do everything I can to get her into the winner’s circle. … It was devastating.”
Miyazato, who also finished runner-up at this event in 2012, hit an uncharacteristically bad wedge into the desert on the 16th and took an unplayable. That led to a double bogey, which put Lewis in the driver’s seat for the first time after making birdie.
“We were so motivated today,” said Lewis, who wanted to thank the Golf Channel viewer who called in to report the bunker infraction for giving added motivation.
Lewis consistently defended Wilson, saying he was still the best caddie on tour. Earlier in the week, Wilson had given Lewis a coin to mark her ball dated 1964, saying she’d shoot that number one day this week. Lewis closed the tournament with a 64 on Sunday to take her seventh career LPGA title.
“Everything happens for a reason,” said Lewis, “and it just turned out to be a perfect day.”
When the cameras were off and Lewis was accepting her trophy on the 18th green, she took a few moments to give thanks to the three LPGA founders on hand – Louise Suggs, Marilynn Smith and Shirley Spork – along with pioneers Carol Mann and JoAnne Carner.
“What you did was way harder than anything I do right now,” Lewis said. “Thank you, thank you 100 times.”
After giving a nod to the past, Lewis turned to her left and gave a gift to the future, donating $50,000 to the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program. The junior girls sitting just off the green got up and surrounded Lewis, giving her a giant group hug.
“If those ladies taught me anything,” Lewis said, “it’s to give back to the game and leave it better than I found it.”