For world no. 1 Stacy Lewis, there are six majors in women’s golf — along with the five Grand Slam events, there’s also the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. With the event at Pinnacle Golf Club being only a twenty-minute drive from the University of Arkansas, where she spent five years playing an esteemed college career, Lewis felt added pressure competing in her adopted state.
“It’s so hard to play here, it’s so much harder than people think,” said Lewis. “I can tell you I was more nervous today than I was at the U.S. Open last week, that’s just how much this place means to me. The fans today were just, it was unreal. I’ve never heard cheers so loud.”
Well, Lewis overcame her nerves, along with a four-shot deficit, and birdied three of her final four holes to claim her 11th career LPGA Tour victory. Lewis fired a final-round 6-under 65 to finish at 12-under par, one shot clear of Lydia Ko, Cristie Kerr and Angela Stanford.
Throughout the day, Lewis battled with a mixed bag of emotions, which peaked when she drained a seven-footer that ended up being for the win on the final hole.
“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 — 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 wasn’t completely aware of the tight race coming down the stretch in the last four holes, but she had some help from the crowd.
“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, who finished runner-up the week before to Michelle Wie at the U.S. Women’s Open, is in prime form as she will try to defend her RICOH Women’s British Open title next week at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England.
“Coming off of last week where I was so close and to come here and to win, it’s really nice to just have that going into the British,” she said.
Maybe the Arkansas tourney isn’t quite a major, but it sure is close in Stacy’s mind.
Her victory also solidifies her position atop the world rankings. The world no. 1 has only finished outside the top 12 once in 15 starts this season. Talk about consistency. She’ll be headlining the third major of the year, along with the winners of the first two, Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie. Speaking of which, it sure has been an incredible season for the Americans on the LPGA! — and Stacy, too, of course.