Lewis on an early season roll
Watch out LPGA. Stacy Lewis is hot again. The 28-year-old defending Rolex Women’s Player of the Year is off to the fastest start of her career after winning the HSBC Women’s Champions on Sunday in Singapore.
Consider how Lewis played in the first three tournaments in Australia, Thailand and Singapore:
- Lewis has never won a tournament in the first three events of the year. Her earliest career win came in April 2011 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She finished tied for 15th, tied for third and won this year over the first three tournaments. Last season, she tied for second, finished fifth and 18th in the first three international events on the way to Player of the Year honors.
- Over 12 rounds, Lewis led or shared the lead five times. No one else had an overnight or final lead more than twice (Lydia Ko and Jiyai Shin, both in Australia). Round leaders (in order) included Ko, Mariajo Uribe, Ko-Shin, Shin (in Australia); Lewis, Lewis, Ariya Jutanugarn, Inbee Park (in Thailand); and Azahara Munoz, Lewis, Lewis-Na Yeon Choi, Lewis (in Singapore).
- Only four players recorded two top-10 finishes in the first two events: Lewis, Beatriz Recari, Yani Tseng and Catriona Matthew.
- Seven of Lewis’ 12 rounds were in the 60s, including a first-round 63 at the Honda LPGA Thailand. The 63 tied her career-low round (first round, 2012 Evian Masters).
- Lewis leads the LPGA in birdies (58) and is tied for first in eagles (3).
Battle for No. 1
Yani Tseng has been the top-ranked player in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings for two years and one month (108 weeks), but the gap has closed considerably. Tseng has a 9.53 average with Na Yeon Choi second at 8.85 and last week’s winner, Stacy Lewis, at 8.84.
Tseng is the defending champion at the next event, the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, next week in Tempe, Ariz. She beat Choi, also ranked No. 2 then, last year in Tempe. Lewis was ranked eighth at the beginning of March 2012.
Lewis is focused on the No. 1 spot, mainly because of her history of back problems dating back to battling scoliosis as a youngster.
“There's really no timetable on what I'm going to be able to do and how long I'm going to be able to play because there's nobody else doing this with a rod and five screws in their back,” Lewis said. “It's really kind of an unknown, and I think that's one thing that kind of helps me go play every week and makes me work hard is that I need to take advantage of the time that I have right now. There's no guarantee how long my back holds up, so I'm thankful for the time that I have and it makes me just go work hard every day.”
Back in the States
There’s a good reason that the LPGA is taking a break this week before starting a 14-tournament stretch in North America (two events in Canada) next week. The trip from Singapore to the United States wears out the competitors. HSBC Champions winner Stacy Lewis endured a 30-hour trip home – Singapore to Frankfurt, Germany to JFK in New York and home to Palm Beach, Fla.
Last year, Jessica Korda made big news when she won the season-opening ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. However, she recorded only three more top-20s for the remainder of the season. This year, Korda has begun the season with a tie for 18th, a tie for 14th and a tie for fifth last week. The T5 was her best finish since the win in Australia. She turned age 20 on the Wednesday before the HSBC Women’s Champions began. … One of the players tied with Korda last week was Danielle Kang, the second-year player from Pepperdine. Kang’s finish was the second best of her career (a T3 at the 2012 Kingsmill Championship). Kang beat Korda in the 2010 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Charlotte (N.C.) Country Club and topped Moriya Jutanugarn in the 2011 final at Rhode Island Country Club. … As the LPGA comes to the United States, the Driving Distance leader is rookie Daniela Iacobelli (274-yard average). Iacobelli, a Florida native, played the first two rounds in the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open to capture the lead in the category. … Lexi Thompson ranks fifth in Driving Distance (266.4 yards) and second in Greens in Regulation (79.2 percent). … Next week’s RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup will mark the 38th year of LPGA competition in the Phoenix, Ariz. Area, dating back to 1962, when 88-time LPGA winner Kathy Whitworth captured the Phoenix Open.