Number-crunching 2011: Lewis up, Miyazato down

Stacy Lewis during the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Stacy Lewis during the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

UP: Stacy Lewis

Ranking/movement: +20 (No. 27 to No. 7)

Why the rise? Looking back, Lewis wasn’t surprised she upset World No. 1 Yani Tseng at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She had gained distance (25 yards off the tee), muscle and confidence around the greens. In her mind, a victory was simply a matter of time.

If Lewis had to pinpoint one area of improvement that has made the biggest impact, however, she’d pick putting. In 2010, Lewis tied for 19th in GIR putting (1.79 average). This season, she’s ninth (1.78). She also has improved in putts per round, jumping from T-61 (29.94) to 21st (27.95).

Lewis’ college coach at Arkansas, Shauna Estes-Taylor, introduced her to AimPoint, a new method of green reading, before the start of the 2010 NW Arkansas Championship last fall. She has since met with AimPoint founder Mark Sweeney several times and made his method a part of her daily routine.

“She’s intelligent; she knows where her ball is going,” Estes-Taylor said. “Now her putting is at a place where she can contend any time, any week.”

Lewis, a third-year tour player, was fourth on the money list this season with 12 top-10 finishes. In addition to her victory in the desert, Lewis finished runner-up at the Evian Masters and CN Canadian Women’s Open. She missed only one cut in 2011 and finished outside the top 30 only three times in 23 events.

Lewis finished the year 11th on the tour in greens in regulation and second in rounds under par with a 70.98 scoring average (7th).

Lewis says: “(It’s about) being more confident. Being in contention more and staying there.”

• • •

DOWN: Ai Miyazato

photo

Ranking/movement: -17 (No. 8 to No. 25)

Why the fall? Miyazato summed it up in three words: “I feel tired.”

Under normal circumstances, it’s tough for any player to follow a five-victory season with an even stronger encore. But the devastation in her home country of Japan caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami left Miyazato scrambling to find ways to help. Not surprisingly, the Okinawa native found it difficult to keep her same level of focus in the wake of tragedy.

Miyazato began a foundation with Momoko Ueda and Mika Miyazato to help fund relief and designed buttons for fellow tour pros to wear that read, “Never Give Up Japan.” Through it all, she struggled to find a good sense of balance.

“I’m playing really good, but it just hasn’t come together,” she said at the Taiwan event in late October. “I’m using so much energy this year.”

Miyazato was more accurate off the tee in 2011 (from 17th to 12th) but slipped a bit in putting – from second to fourth. Her driving was a positive, because she had struggled mightily in driving accuracy during a previous slump a few seasons ago, failing to break the top 100 in fairways hit. This season was a blip compared to her past struggles.

After all, it’s not like she was winless in 2011. Miyazato’s victory at the Evian Masters in July might be as special as her LPGA breakthrough in France two years ago.

“After the earthquake I just wanted to deliver some good news,” she said. “It was an incredible week for me.”

Miyazato says: “(The earthquake) was really such a disaster for us. Everyone is trying to work together as one. I can see how the Japanese people are really strong, and it motivated me.”

• • •

Other number-crunching stories

PGA Tour (Dec. 19): Webb Simpson leaps forward, while Jim Furyk falls back. Story.

PGA Tour (Dec. 21): Cameron Tringale makes a big move forward, while Camilo Villegas drops off. Story.

PGA Tour (Dec. 22): Gary Woodland powered his way up the rankings, while Sean O'Hair dipped considerably. Story.

LPGA/Futures Tour (Dec. 23): Tiffany Joh jumped significantly in 2011, while Song-Hee Kim had a year to forget. Story.

PGA Tour (Dec. 24): Kevin Streelman used a no-nonsense approach to move up the rankings while Heath Slocum struggled in 2011. Story.

European Tour (Dec. 25): Thomas Bjorn surprised a lot of people with three wins in one season to move ahead, but Nick Dougherty and Oliver Wilson didn't have the same fortune. Story.

Nationwide/Futures Tour (Dec. 26): Danny Lee had a comeback year in 2011, but Kathleen Ekey fell further backward. Story.

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