Stacy Lewis claimed the World No. 1 women’s golf ranking by firing a final-round eight-under-par 64 to beat Japan’s Ai Miyazato by three strokes on Sunday at the US$1.5 million LPGA Founders Cup.
The 28-year-old American knocked last year’s Founders Cup champion Yani Tseng of Taiwan from atop the rankings after a stay of 109 weeks with the victory. Tseng finished tied for 59th place, 19 strokes off the pace.
Lewis became only the second American woman golfer to claim the top spot, after Cristie Kerr in 2010, by making birdies on three of the last four holes, while Miyazato, who led most of the way, took a double-bogey at the 16th.
“It’s unbelievable,” Lewis said. “We were battling back and forth, and I didn’t expect her to do that there. I was just trying to make birdies there at the end.”
World No. 1 “has a pretty good ring to it,” Lewis said just one day after taking a two-stroke penalty after her third round when her caddie was penalized for testing a bunker.
“It was just fitting with everything that happened yesterday that I had my back against the wall again today,” Lewis said.
Lewis, who began the day four off Miyazato’s pace after the penalty, fired the best round of the day by two shots to finish on 23-under-par 265.
Miyazato, seeking a 10th career LPGA title, settled for second on 268 after a closing 71 at Wildfire Golf Club, where Miyazato set a course record with a 63 in the opening round.
Taiwan’s Candie Kung, who shared 18th spot after the third round, finished tied for eighth with a 15-under 273.
“You deserve this world number 1. Great job!! Happy for you, I am about to start chasing world number 1 now,” Tseng posted on Twitter to congratulate Lewis.
“I think maybe going back to No. 2 is good for me,” Tseng told Golf Channel. “I’ve been there before. I know how to get to No. 1 and maybe next week I win. You never know.”
“I just want to play good golf,” Tseng said. “It doesn’t matter where I’m ranked. Even though I didn’t win, I really enjoyed this week. I’m grateful to all the fans who came out to watch us play.”
The 24-year-old Tseng took over as world No. 1 from Shin Ji-yai of South Korea on Feb. 13, 2011, after notching up three consecutive victories at the beginning of that year. She had held the slot ever since, despite inconsistent form last year.
Tseng won three of the first five LPGA events last year, but has not won since.
Tseng, who held the top spot for over 100 consecutive weeks, is only the second female golfer to achieve the feat after Lorena Ochoa of Mexico, who headed the rankings for 158 consecutive weeks from April 2007 until May 2010.