It’s a different mindset when the wheels touch down north of Hadrian’s Wall. In America, Stacy Lewis is one of those players who acts like patience is an overrated virtue. One well-struck shot that ricochets into a bad spot and you can almost see the redness rise around her ears. But not in Scotland. Once she sets foot on the sandy soil of the linksland, Lewis becomes a different player.
“I truly love playing in Scotland,” Lewis said after firing a 5-under 66 on Friday to share the early second-round lead at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open, a round that included four consecutive birdies from 15 through 18.
“I love links golf,” she emphasized again. “All the different shots you get to hit, the different weather. You have to battle the elements which we did yesterday. I was just, more than anything, excited to come play.”
Lewis, the last American to be ranked No.1 in the world, has a storied history in the Home of Golf. In 2013, she won the AIG Women’s Open, her second major championship, on the Old Course at St Andrews with a shot that defined her career: a 5-iron at the Road Hole that stopped 3 feet away in the final round. But her love of the links golf goes back further than that.
“For me, it started at the (2008) Curtis Cup at St Andrews (where Lewis went 5-0),” she said. “I have to give my caddie that week, Fraser, a lot of credit. He truly taught me links golf. He told me where to land a pitching wedge and let it bounce out. He picked out all these shots for me and helped me visualize things. I really think it was the experience with him and playing the Old Course as many times as we did that week is what made me fall in love with links golf.”
“I honestly think that a different mindset kicks in for her there (in Scotland) because she knows that you have to be more creative,” Lewis’ coach Joe Hallett told LPGA.com. “Knowing that something can happen, that you can get a screwy bounce or a good bounce, for some reason, she looks at it as another challenge. At a perfectly manicured (American) course, you’re like, ‘How did the ball bounce over there?’ But in Scotland, you expect it and look at is as part of the challenge.”
Lewis also has a psychological edge in Scotland. According to Hallett: “Stacy always laughs and says, ‘I know how much everyone hates the cold weather and the rain. The minute I have to put on a pullover and my rain suit, I know my swing won’t get too long. It’s like a built-in safety net. My swing will be in control all day.’”
The swing is also as solid as it has been in quite some time.
“The COVID break has done wonders for my golf swing, I'll tell you that, and my body,” Lewis said. “I look back, even before I was pregnant with Chesnee, earlier in that year, I had to pull out of Thailand and Singapore, I kind of hurt my ribs. And then I go into having Chesnee and you know, just never really got my body back in shape where it needed to be.
“And so this break, I met some ladies at home who have helped me understand how my body works and how to get inflammation out of my joints, helping me manage the day-to-day and not be hurt so much; helping me be a little bit more free, and in all that, kind of learn some things about my golf swing, my setup, and what my body is not able to do. It's really helped me understand everything that's going on.”
This week, what’s going on is that Lewis is comfortable with her sequencing, something she and Hallett worked on prior to the flight to Edinburgh.
“We’ve worked on stabilizing her lower body on the takeaway,” Hallett said. “Now that it is stabilized, her entire body is working in the proper sequence. Now, she’s able to let her upper body turn, keep the club on line, and then the lower body finishes off the backswing. She has such good hand-eye coordination that, now, she can use her natural strength to be creative and hit the shots she needs to hit because she has the club going back the right way.”
Swing mechanics aside, the biggest advantage Lewis has coming into the weekend is her attitude, the kind of que sera sera approach that those who know her well don’t see too often.
“You have to really go with the flow because you're going to get some funky bounces,” Lewis said with a smile. “But we've had a great week so far.”