Stacy Lewis has had a very fine three days! She played like a woman on fire, carded rounds of 67, 63 and 67 at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club Bay Course and ended Sunday at -16 and on the top of the ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer leaderboard. The ShopRight gave Lewis her second 2014 victory and rewarded her with the winner’s purse of $225K. That pushed her year-to-date earnings over the million dollar mark. She also collected 500 more Race to the CME Globe points, which increases her lead in that year-long, million dollar contest to close to 1000 points. And to top it all off, with the ShopRite victory Lewis bumped Inbee Park out of the number one spot in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, a spot Park has held for 59 consecutive weeks.
Lewis’s victory and all that it entailed was the big story at the Shoprite LPGA Classic, but it wasn’t the only story.
Christina Kim’s runner-up finish is also a success story. Kim, one of the most popular and engaging players on the Tour, has struggled with depression and with physical ailments that have suppressed her performance for several years, and she has surmounted enormous obstacles to regain her Tour status and the level of play that will keep her there.
Watching Christina Kim play golf for the past three days was both thrilling and inspiring. She played with courage and with grace and with humor and with compassion. When Lewis missed a short birdie putt on the par-2 17th this afternoon Kim was trailing her lead by four strokes. With Kim standing by and watching, Lewis then bobbled an equally short come-back par putt that was hit just a bit too firm and lipped out. On her third try she put the ball in the cup and dropped a shot. Kim, who was trailing by 3 when they left the green and started their walk to the 18th tee, and who badly wanted the win for herself, reached over and gave her friend a consoling pat on the back.
Kim then faced her own problems on the final hole and turned what should have been a fairly straightforward par-5 finish into a double bogey. Her response? A smile, a genuine hug for Stacy Lewis, and then tears, not of sorrow but of joy, because she was back in the competition. We’ll see more of Christina Kim around the top of the leaderboard.
There was some splendid golf played a bit further down the board. The four-way tie for third got Haeji Kang and Jennifer Johnson their first top-10 finishes of the season. Johnson, who was holding second place at the turn, one stroke ahead of Kim, was one of a number of players who fell victim to the treacherous fescue rough, and a resulting double on the par-4 12th followed by bogeys on the 14th and 15th put the top of the board out of her reach.
Anna Nordqvist and Gerina Piller, shared third place with Kang and Johnson. This was the 4th top-10 for both Nordqvist and Piller this year. Piller, who’s hunting her first pro victory, played an exceptionally strong game and but for a couple of tangles in the nasty Bay Course rough might have taken away Stacy Lewis’s Sunday glory. I’m looking for Piller to put that first win on her resume before the 2014 season ends.
Not everybody had good rounds at the ShopRite. Suzann Pettersen finished at T13, Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie at T23, Brittany Lang at T33, Lydia Ko at T48 and Lexi Thompson at T66. It was a challenging golf course with a killer rough and tricky ocean winds that brought some of the Tour’s stars to their knees.
The Tour travels further north now, to Waterloo, Ontario and the 72-hole Manulife Financial LPGA Classic at the Grey Silo Golf Course, June 5-8.