Sunday, August 4, 2013

Congratulations to Stacy Lewis!

With world #1 Inbee Park's quest to win her 4th consecutive major over in the early afternoon at St. Andrews, what emerged on the final 9 of the Ricoh Women's British Open was a duel between the remaining top-ranked players in the world, Stacy Lewis, Suzann Pettersen, and Na Yeon Choi, with Morgan Pressel and Hee Young Park attempting to crash the party.

The players were tightly bunched as they made the turn, with Choi taking the lead at -9 when she birdied the 10th.  Because most golfers were playing 36 holes after yesterday's wind suspension, the LGU couldn't shuffle the pairings between the 3rd and 4th rounds, so Lewis and Park were 4 groups ahead of Pressel and Pettersen and 5 ahead of Choi's group.  When Choi birdied 10, therefore, she moved to 3 shots ahead of Lewis (who had bogeyed 11 and 12), Park (who had bogeyed 12 and 13), Pressel (who doubled the short 12th by 3-putting from about 5 feet), and Pettersen (who couldn't buy a birdie as she made the turn and bogeyed the 11th).  The only hope for Choi's challengers was that NYC had stumbled home earlier in the day with 4 bogeys in her last 7 holes of her 3rd round.  And recent history started to repeat itself, when she 3-putted from super-long range on the tough 13th and sprayed an attempt to reach the par-5 14th in 2 way right and not only failed to birdie it but 3-putted again from long range after her approach from heavy grass skidded to the way back of the green.  Even so, she was still looking pretty good as Pettersen and Pressel continued to miss putts for birdie and par, while Park was fortunate to come away with a bogey on the 1th after taking 2 shots to get out of the Hell Bunker and could only get to -6 with her great birdie on 16.

But then Lewis took over the tournament.  Despite throwing away her birdie on the 14th with a bogey on 15 to return to -6, she hit a fantastic drive on the Road Hole and an even better approach shot to within about 4 feet.  When she made the birdie putt, she put a lot of pressure on everyone else.  And when she hit a great drive on 18 and recovered from a too-aggressive Texas wedge with a confident 20-footer for birdie, she forced them to come and get her.  Nobody could manage it, as the best her playing partner could do was par 17 and 18 to finish 2 behind her, and the Road Hole was the decider for everyone else, as 1st Pettersen and Pressel and then Choi bogeyed it.  When Choi couldn't hole out for eagle on 18 as Catriona Matthew had to finish her 3rd round, Lewis became the WBO champion.

It was Lewis's 1st win since taking the 1st 2 LPGA tournaments of 2013 on American soil.  Having gone 5-0 as a Curtis Cupper at St. Andrews while still an amateur, Lewis understood something this week that it took her years to accept as a pro:  she didn't have to play perfect to win and she couldn't afford to waste her energy beating herself up for her mistakes when she could be confident everyone else would also be making a lot of them.  To be honest, she made plenty of them today, starting with 2 bogeys in her last 3 holes of her 3rd round and 2 more in her 1st 4 holes of her final round.  Despite that, Lewis found a way to win.  She has now won half the time she's gotten into the top 3 in her career, 8 times in 16 attempts.  Contrast that with NYC, who's 7 for 30, and you have to conclude that Lewis is the much better finisher.  It's fitting, then, that she outduelled NYC to take the 2013 WBO, just as she outduelled then-world #1 Ya Ni Tseng to take the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship, her only previous major and the last time an American had won an LPGA major after a 10-major run of Asian champions.

Huge congratulations, then, to Lewis, whose parents got to witness the win in person and celebrate it with her.  Let's hope she can lead Team USA to victory at the Solheim Cup!

[Update 1 (2:51 pm):  Here's Brent Kelley's overview.]


Tony Jesselli (Tonyj5) said...

That Lewis/Choi finishing percentage is great stat. Really surprised me.

The Constructivist said...

Choi isn't the only one who doesn't win as often as you'd expect when she's in contention. Whether that says something about her and the others like her or whether there's kind of a natural average is an open question. Here are rates from those with double digits worth of top 3s:

Shin 11/22
Lewis 8/16
I. Park 9/20
A Miyazato 9/21
Tseng 15/37
SH Lee 4/11
Lincicome 5/15
Choi 7/30
Creamer 9/40
Wie 2/10
Pressel 2/13
IK Kim 3/18
SH Kim 0/11

Randomness would suggest you ought to win about a third of the time. The actual winning percentage for these players is 31.8%, for what it's worth. I guess it makes sense that it's a little harder to win than to finish 2nd or 3rd....