The US’ Stacy Lewis fired a final round level-par 71 to capture the US$1.5 million ShopRite LPGA Classic by four strokes on Sunday for her second tournament victory of the season.
Lewis finished the 54-hole event on 12-under 201. Australia’s Katherine Hull birdied three of the last four holes to take second on 205, one stroke ahead of Japan’s Mika Miyazato and Spain’s Azahara Munoz.
The victory bumps Lewis from seventh to third in the world rankings, pushing her past Cristie Kerr as the top US female golfer.
“I’m third in the world now and the top American,” Lewis said. “I don’t even know what to say. I mean it’s unbelievable.”
“You dream of it and you can see yourself there eventually, but for it to actually happen — it’s just unbelievable,” she added.
Lewis has two victories in three starts after winning earlier this season at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic.
“I’ve gotten off to a really good start and just been playing some good golf,” Lewis said.
Lewis took her only other title last year at a major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, and she is on form again heading into another major, next week’s US$2.5 million LPGA Championship in Pittsford, New York.
Lewis began the day with a seven-stroke lead over Hull, who bogeyed the par-four second and birdied the par-four fifth, but never seriously threatened to deny Lewis the US$225,000 top prize.
“Catching her was going to be hard. She was playing great. It was probably more a battle for second,” Hull said.
Lewis had back-to-back birdies at the par-five third and par-four fourth and again at the par-three seventh and par-four eighth to seize command.
“When she’s that far ahead, she has got to make a lot of mistakes and you’ve got to shoot a really low round,” Hull said. “You just stick to your game plan and try to make as many putts as you can. That’s all you can really do.”
Even with a bogey at the par-five ninth, a double-bogey at the par-three 11th and bogeys at the par-four 12th and par-three 15th, Lewis closed with three pars to still win comfortably.
“I was relieved to be done,” Lewis said. “It was so hard out there. Having a huge lead like that was really tough. I got off to such a good start. It was hard to keep my concentration and I kind of lost it in the middle of the round.”
Taking her frustrations out on her putter helped Lewis break the tension and find her focus once again.
“I know people don’t like this, but I kind of slammed my putter after my three-putt on 12, and honestly, it relieved me so much,” Lewis said. “It got all the tension that was in my hands. I was so stressed out and it just got all my tension out, and from 13 on, I felt great. I kind of got my rhythm back and got my feel back.”
US rookie Lexi Thompson fired a 67 to grab a share of fifth with Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist and South Korean Han Hee-won on 207.
Yani Tseng led the Taiwanese contingent with a one-over 72 to finish tied for 12th on three-under 210, while Candie Kung’s three-over 74 placed her tied for a 71st-place finish on seven-over 220.
Amy Hung missed the cut after carding an 81 in the second round.
Additional reporting by staff writer