Jimmy Carter is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas.
Lewis Bounces Back From Rough Start
Stacy Lewis watches her drive off the 3rd tee Friday afternoon during the first round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers.
ROGERS -- Fans crowded around the first tee box at Pinnacle Country Club started clapping and screaming "Woo Pig Sooie" before the announcer could even begin his introduction Friday afternoon.
Stacy Lewis was under the microscope again in Northwest Arkansas.
Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
First Round Leaderboard • Par: 71
So Yeon Ryu^-4^67
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The University of Arkansas' most famous former women's golfer teed off in the first round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship as the world's No. 1 ranked golfer for the first time in her career. Fans showed up in impressive numbers, a throng of hundreds following the star-studded group of Lewis, teen phenom Lydia Ko and Jessica Korba for much of the round.
The energy was palpable. Lewis wound up shooting a 1-under par 70 to stay within striking distance of the leaders, but it was a struggle playing in front of the huge following in the early stages of the round.
She stumbled out of the gate, missing a four-foot putt for par on the par-5 second and bogeying the par-4 fourth to quickly drop to 2-over par in front of a subdued crowd that included dozens of fans wearing white and navy "Team Stacy" shirts.
"It's always hard playing here," Lewis said. "People, I don't think they quite realize how hard it is. There's a lot of pressure and it's hard to not put too much pressure on yourself. But once we got out there and relaxed a little bit and made a few putts, it got a little bit easier as the day went on."
The world's top player turned her round around with two putts on the front nine.
Lewis ran a birdie putt well past the hole on No. 5, but sank a dangerous downhill 12-footer for par to keep her round from sliding any further. She kept the momentum going with a birdie on the par-3 sixth.
"The putt on five and the putt on six were both huge," Lewis said. "They really got me going in the right direction. I started to hit some better shots from there. The greens are so much slower than last week, it's hard to get it in your head."
Then the fireworks started.
Lewis nearly holed an approach shot out of the bunker on the par-4 ninth, landing the ball behind the flag and spinning it within a foot of the cup for a tap-in to get her back to even par at the turn. She cracked a smile while walking up to the green to loud cheers from the sizable crowd seated on a greenside hill, the round clearly turning around after the shaky start.
Two holes later, on the par-3 11th, she nearly holed her tee shot and had another tap-in to move her into the red.
"Eleven was pretty cool," Lewis said. "It was an 8-iron. Actually in the air, I thought that was going in and it just hopped right around the hole."
Lewis gave herself birdie chances throughout the day, but was unable to convert down the stretch of the back nine. But that didn't keep the fans from shouting their support, showering Lewis with "Go Hogs" and other encouragement throughout the round.
Lewis reciprocated the love on the par-3 17th, throwing around a dozen Razorback hats into a crowd of hundreds at the hole billed the Gatorade "Loudest Hole On Tour." But every hole with Lewis was loud.
"Stacy and I were talking about it before we went out and played today," Korba said. "She was asking me, 'Are you ready for today?' And I asked her why. And she said, 'You're going to learn.' I learned quickly. But it was awesome. It was cool to see how much support Stacy had. It was awesome for everybody to come out."
Lewis will tee off with the same group at 8:14 a.m. on No. 10 today.
Sports on 06/28/2014