Lewis wins LPGA event by 4 strokes
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GALLOWAY, NJ. (AP) Stacy Lewis won the ShopRite LPGA Classic on Sunday and is poised to rise to the top of another list.
Lewis shook off a rough stretch in the middle of the final round and finished with an even-par 71 at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club, good enough for a four-stroke victory over Katherine Hull.
The 27-year-old Lewis, who was 12 under for the tournament, has won two of her last three starts to give her three career wins. She captured the Mobile LPGA Classic in April and the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2011.
Along with the victory, Lewis also earned another notable accomplishment. She likely will be the top-ranked American when the LPGA rankings are updated on Monday.
According to LPGA projections, she will be No. 3 when the new list comes out. That would put her in front of Cristie Kerr, who has been the top-ranked American since Nov. 23, 2009.
Lewis, who had back surgery a decade ago that almost derailed her career, said the whole thing is unbelievable.
"I'm speechless," she said. "To go from back surgery where I couldn't even sit up by myself to now playing golf, having fun with it, playing with the best players in the world and being one of them? It doesn't get any better than that."
No one made a serious run at Lewis on Sunday. Hull closed with a 3-under 68 to finish at 205. Mika Miyazato, who was tied for the lead with Lewis after the first round, also shot 68 to finish at 206 and share third place with Azahara Munoz, who had a 69 in the final round.
Lexi Thompson (67), Hee-Won Han (69) and Anna Nordqvist (71) all wound up at 207, while Alison Walshe (69) and Paula Creamer (71) were another stroke back.
Lewis got off to a nice start. She reached the par-5 third in two and converted an eight-foot birdie chance, then went on to birdie No. 4 to move to 14 under.
"It wasn't really playing aggressively," she said. "It was just playing smart and I knew I needed to make some birdies.
"I made a really good two-putt on two and a good two-putt on three and that really seemed to calm me down and get me in a really good place."
Lewis also birdied Nos. 4, 7 and 8. She was 16 under at that point and held a nine-shot lead. The tournament was on the verge of becoming a rout, but Lewis then lost her way for a bit.
She flubbed a chip shot on the par-5 ninth and wound up making bogey. She missed the green at the par-3 11th and another errant chip led to a double bogey. Another bogey at No. 12 left Lewis at 12 under.
She admitted she lost her focus for a time.
"I think I just kind of started taking a few chip shots for granted," she said. "I thought they were going to be easier than they were and they turned out to be pretty tough shots."
Lewis slammed her putter against her bag as she left the 12th green.
"I know people don't like this," she said, "but honestly, it relieved me so much. It got rid of all the tension that was in my hands. I was so stressed out and it just got all the tension out."
Lewis parred No. 13 and rolled in a 35-foot birdie putt at 14 to get back to 13 under. She bogeyed No. 15, but no one in the field could catch up.
Thompson made the biggest move up the leaderboard. She started the day tied for 17th.
Hull played in the next-to-last group and dropped a 10-foot birdie putt at the 18th to finish second. She praised Lewis for her solid play.
"Catching her was going to be hard," Hull said. "She's playing great. So I thought it was probably going to be a battle for second place.
"You just have to be patient out there and fortunately I put a good round on the board. I'm really happy to finish second."
Lewis was keeping an eye on her pursuers.
"I looked at the leaderboard on five," she said, "kind of saw where I was and didn't look at it again until nine. Even with the bogey I knew I was still OK.
"Then when I made the double and the bogey on 11 and 12 I was actually pretty nervous there. I thought somebody could get within a couple of shots. When I saw the leaderboard and saw I had a six-shot lead at that point, that was when I kind of said `All right, it's center of the green, two putt, and move on."
NOTES: Lewis earned $225,000 from a $1.5 million purse. ... The tradition continues: The tournament has been played 24 times and no returning champion, including Brittany Lincicome this year, has successfully defended. ... Rain fell briefly at one point while the last group was on the 13th hole but apart from a steady breeze the weather had little or no effect on play.
Updated June 3, 2012