By Ward Clayton
Lewis' drive to the top
It's appropriate that the title sponsor of this week's LPGA event is a car manufacturer. That's because Stacy Lewis has shown her drive to reach the top entering the Kia Classic.
Lewis moved to No. 1 in the Rolex Women's World Rankings with her victory last week at the RR Donnelly LPGA Founders Cup, ending Yani Tseng's 109-week tenure as the world's top-ranked golfer. One year ago, entering the Kia Classic, Lewis was ranked ninth (and the third American behind Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr). Now she becomes only the second American (Kerr was the other, in 2010) to pace women's golf.
Here are some statistics on probably the hottest golfer in the world, either man or woman:
No. 1s Over Time: The first Rolex Rankings list was released on Feb. 21, 2006, when Annika Sorenstam officially became World No. 1. Since then, just seven players (including Lewis now) have held the top spot, alternating 13 times between them. They include:
|Player||Time at No. 1|
|Annika Sorenstam||61 weeks|
|Lorena Ochoa||158 weeks|
|Ai Miyazato||12 weeks|
|Cristie Kerr||5 weeks|
|Jiyai Shin||25 weeks|
|Yani Tseng||109 weeks|
|Stacy Lewis||1 week|
Lewis in 2013: Lewis has begun the 2013 season with two wins, a tie for third and a tie for 15th. She is currently on a streak where she has led or shared the lead after six of the 16 rounds played thus far. She has also broken par in nine consecutive rounds, including four in a row at the RR Donnelley last week. The rounds of 68-65-68-64 in Phoenix included a two-stroke penalty in the third round.
Here are her scores over the first four tournaments:
Three in a row: Stacy Lewis enters the Kia Classic looking for a third consecutive victory on the LPGA, which could be a challenge since she has never broken par (cut in 2010, T24 in 2011 and T25 in 2012) at the tournament. The LPGA record for consecutive wins is five, set by Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam. Here is how they did it:
5, Nancy Lopez, 1978 (Greater Baltimore Classic, May 12-14; Coca-Cola Classic, May 19-21; Golden Lights Championship, May 26-29; did not play Peter Jackson Classic, June 1-4; LPGA Championship, June 8-11; Bankers Trust Classic, June 16-18).
5, Annika Sorenstam, 2004-2005 (2004 Mizuno Classic, Nov. 5-7; 2004 ADT Championship, Nov. 18-21; 2005 MasterCard Classic honoring Alejo Peralta, March 4-6; 2005 Safeway International Presented by Coca-Cola, March 17-20; 2005 Kraft Nabisco Championship, March 24-27).
Third course in four years
The Kia Classic moves to Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif., this week, the third course in the four-year history of the tournament. The first events in 2010 and last year's tournament were held at La Costa Resort and Spa across town in Carlsbad. The 2011 tournament was held at Industry Hills Golf Club.
Aviara Hills will play 6,593 yards and to par 72 this week. If the 382-yard, par-4 18th hole looks familiar, just look at this week's PGA Tour event, the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The 18th hole at Bay Hill Club is a dogleg-right par 4 with water on the right in the landing area and guarding the right and front of the green. Aviara Hills' 18th hole is very similar, only about 70 yards shorter with water predominately to the right of the green. Palmer designed both courses.
Aviara Hills also draws attention because the course winds through what appears to be a botanical garden, especially on the tight front nine. The back nine is more open, bringing the nearby Pacific Ocean winds into play. Because of strict environmental rules, Aviara Hills took nearly a decade to open before debuting in 1991.
Tseng's last win
Yani Tseng won the 2012 Kia Classic by six strokes for her third victory in the first events of the season. She also placed in the top eight in her other two starts. That was the best start to a season in her five-year LPGA career and ranks among the best over five events in the 62-year history of the LPGA. Tseng had won only twice in her first five events of each season cumulatively since 2008, her rookie campaign, entering the 2012 season.
This year, Tseng has finished second and T3 in the first two events of the season and T28 and T59 in the last two events.
Jessica Korda's final-round 66 in last week's RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup continued the 20-year-old's fast start in 2013. Korda has a streak of nine consecutive rounds of par or better and has finished T5 and T4 in her last two starts.
The Driving Distance category looks to be quite interesting this year. Second-year player Maude-Aimee Leblanc leads with a 294-yard average after missing the cut last week at the RR Donnelley. Rookie Daniela Iacobelli, the previous leader, is in second at 282.8. … Beatriz Recari has played in 56 consecutive LPGA tournaments, dating back to the 2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational. She hasn't missed a cut in 36 LPGA tournaments, going back to the September 2011 Navistar LPGA Classic.