Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G
Sunday, June 29
Rolex Rankings No.1 Stacy Lewis has been one of the main characters in the storybook script that has unfolded on the LPGA Tour in 2014. The former University of Arkansas Razorback stood in the spotlight once again on Sunday, this time in her adopted home of Northwest Arkansas. Lewis was a standout at nearby U of A in Fayetteville, a 20-minute drive from Pinnacle Golf Club, and said her 11th career victory this week ranks high on her list of the most special wins of her career. The six-year Tour veteran said she had a mix emotions running throughout the entire day.
“I think a little bit of 18 was relief that it was done because I was so stressed out all day and so on edge just wanting to pull every shot off,” said Lewis. “But then it was just excitement to hear the crowd react the way they did and just the people just to go nuts.”
“I mean, that’s why I play,” Lewis added. “I play to get in the heat of the battle, to have that chance to win at the end. That’s why I play. And I want to see where my game is at that point because that’s the ultimate test, because if you can pull it off when the tournament is on the line, you know you’re doing some good things just to pull off those shots.”
Lewis started the day four shots behind the second-round leader Michelle Wie but carded seven birdies and one bogey en-route to a closing 65. Her three-day total of 12-under par 201 was one shot clear of Lydia Ko (65), Cristie Kerr (67) and Angela Stanford (67).
Lewis had three birdies in her first six holes to get to 9-under par and within one shot of Stanford, Kerr and Wie. A three-putt bogey on the par 4 9th hole was her only blip of the day and turned her focus to a back nine run. She said she wasn’t totally caught up with the tight race going on around her.
A birdie on the par 3 11th hole got her back to 9-under but it was the finishing four holes that tested the 29-year-old’s nerves. She said she wasn’t totally aware of the tight race for the finish going on around her and used the help of a fan heading into the final four holes.
“Actually I didn’t really know much,” said Lewis. “I knew when I made the turn obviously I was a few behind. Then coming down to 15 a fan actually yelled like, ‘You’re one behind,’ or something like that and I didn’t know where I stood at that point. So I got an assist there. But then I came off of 17, I saw that Lydia made birdie on 18, so I was glad that I had one more hole to play, I had a chance. I knew if I could birdie 18 and get in the clubhouse that would be a pretty good number.”
Lewis had back-to-back birdies on Nos. 15 & 16 to take the lead over Kerr and Lydia Ko who made a back-nine surge of her own with three birdies in her final four holes. Kerr was playing in the group behind Lewis and responded with a birdie of her own on No. 15 to get back to 11-under. Ko was in the group ahead of Lewis and walked in the clubhouse with a share of the lead after a birdie on the 18th.
“These wins, they don’t get easier,” said Lewis. “You look at the names on that leaderboard, some great, great players. Lydia I think shot 65 today, Cristie played well. I mean, it doesn’t get any easier. But it’s also fun, it makes me work harder, it makes me want to be better and I think it’s good for everybody.”
Lewis hit her third shot on the final par 5 18th to seven feet and gave herself some ‘self-talk’ on the green courtesy of her college coach, Shauna Estes-Taylor.
“On that putt on 18, Shauna and I worked on something last week, we were working on my putting and she said it to me a thousand times I think on the putting green on Saturday night and she said, ‘Down the line, down the line.’ So I don’t know if you could see it but out loud ‑‑ Travis told he walked away, he said, ‘Knock it in,’ and I said, ‘Down the line, down the line.’ So that’s all I was telling myself over that putt was “down the line,” just trying to hit a good putt. If it goes in, great. If not, we go play some more golf.”
Lewis sank the putt and gave a fist pump with her teeth clenched and lifted her putter to salute the Arkansas crowd. She headed to the clubhouse to watch the final two groups finish. Kerr left her 30-foot birdie putt on 18 short and So Yeon Ryu failed to chip in on 18 to force a playoff. Lewis, who got her competitive golf career underway as an undergraduate at Arkansas said the victory here is a sweet reminder on how far she has come.
“Now to come to this point being No. 1 in the world and having a bunch of wins on tour, it’s pretty mind boggling when you think back all that’s kind of changed over the last few years,” said Lewis. “It’s just really, really special to win here.”