Course-record 63 puts Lewis in position to make history
NAPLES, Fla. –– Friday night at the Rolex Awards Celebration, Suzann Pettersen missed her tee time. The event’s lineup was supposed to include a Q&A about the Vare Trophy race with contenders Pettersen and Stacy Lewis. But after walking the red carpet during the cocktail hour, Pettersen ducked out. Lewis did the interview solo with Golf Channel’s Tom Abbott.
“She’s definitely going to hear it from me tomorrow (Saturday),” said Lewis, who had the first tee time on Saturday. Pettersen played in the group behind her.
Lewis needs to finish nine strokes ahead of Pettersen this week to become the first American to win the Vare Trophy for low scoring average since Beth Daniel in 1994. Pettersen and Lewis were tied after the first two rounds of the CME Group Titleholders, but Lewis put the gas pedal to the floor on Saturday, carding a course-record 63 to move to 9-under 207 for the tournament. Pettersen, meanwhile, shot 71 and is 1 under overall.
It would take a catastrophic event to derail Lewis now.
“These are not my greens,” said a frustrated Pettersen after signing her card. “They are so grainy. I don’t know how many edges I’ve burned over the last three days.”
Lewis not only finds herself in fabulous position to win the Vare Trophy, she’s also in prime position to win the $700,000 first-place check, which would make her the first American to win the money list in 20 years.
“Coming out on tour did I ever think I could ever win any of these awards?” Lewis asked, rhetorically. “Absolutely not. Just to be in the running for it is a huge honor.”
As Lewis sat at the awards ceremony Friday night, she thought about the advice Daniel gave to her last year before traveling to Asia to try and clinch the Rolex Player of the Year Award.
“You can't control what anybody else does,” Lewis said. “You can take care of yourself, you can take care of one shot at a time, and that's what I tried to do today. Suzann was playing right behind me and I told myself I was not going to look back there all day long, I wasn't going to look at a leaderboard and I was just going to take care of myself and that's what I did.”
Lewis started off her day making two 5-foot par saves on the first two holes and holed out a 5-iron from 177 yards. Her back nine included six birdies in a seven-hole stretch.
Lewis holds degrees in finance and accounting from the University of Arkansas and is by nature a numbers person. She couldn’t help but look at scores this fall even when she wasn’t playing.
“I can do the numbers in my head,” said Lewis. “I try to not think about it too much, but it's been there.”
Lewis admitted it will be nice not to dwell on scoring average on Sunday. When the leaderboard is this bunched – eight players within three shots – Lewis has learned not to study it early.
“You have to just take care of yourself,” she said.
And the rest will fall into place.