Rolex Rankings No. 3 Stacy Lewis returns to Japan this week as the defending champion of the Mizuno Classic at Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club in Shime-Shi, Mie, Japan. The Texan won last year’s event by one-stroke over second-round leader and JLPGA standout Bo-Mee Lee, overcoming a seven-stroke deficit during the final round. It was her fourth win of the 2012 season and propelled her to earning the Rolex Player of the Year Award.
On track to a successful title defense, Lewis is fresh off a three-week break from the LPGA Tour after tallying top-10 finishes in the first two events of the Asia swing. She currently leads the LPGA Tour in top-10s with 16 which also include three victories and a major championship win. As the season begins to come to a close with only three tournaments remaining on the schedule, Lewis said taking some time off has helped her remain focused to finish the season strong.
“You just try to be fresh, you know, I’m not playing all the Asia tournaments just because I want to be fresh when I am playing and I want to play good and have a chance to win,” said Lewis, who is No. 3 in the Rolex Rankings. “So it’s about managing your energy level at the end of the season because everyone is tired, everybody is really for the off season.”
Lewis’ quest to repeat as champion will be met with strong resistance from No. 8 Karrie Webb and No. 13 Jiyai Shin, who are also past champions at the Mizuno Classic. Webb has remained at the top of her game as a 17-year veteran on Tour and claimed her 39th career victory at this year’s ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer. Shin also enters the week as a 2013 tournament champion, claiming the first title of the season and 11th overall at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
This week’s event will also be a homecoming for LPGA Tour Rookie Ayako Uehara, two-year member Haru Nomura and Rolex Rankings No. 20 Mika Miyazato, who has posted four top-20 finishes at the Mizuno Classic in her five-year LPGA Tour career.
The 54-hole, limited field event is made up of 43 LPGA Tour players and 35 members of the LPGA of Japan. In the 41st edition of the Mizuno Classic, the 78-players will vie for a $1.2 million purse and a $180,000 first-place check.