VIDEO: Strong finish boosts Lewis

By: Chip Souza
Published: Monday, June 26, 2017
Stacy Lewis tips her putter to the crowd Saturday June 24, 2017 at the Northwest Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers. Lewis finished 13 under par.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Stacy Lewis tips her putter to the crowd Saturday June 24, 2017 at the Northwest Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers. Lewis finished 13 under par.

ROGERS — A loud cheer greeted fan favorite Stacy Lewis as she walked up the elevated No. 18 green Sunday afternoon at Pinnacle Country Club.

Lewis, the 2014 champion of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship and a former All-American at the University of Arkansas, knew that she was not going to hoist the championship trophy. But she’ll carry a strong finish into next week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the second major of the LPGA season.

Entering Sunday’s final round at 11-under par, it would have taken a perfect storm for Lewis to catch second-round leader So Yeon Ryu, who scorched the field on Saturday en route to a record 16-under. Ryu did not let the fiveshot lead go, and won the tournament by two shots with Lewis finishing at 13-under, tied for fourth.

Pinnacle Country Club, Rogers

“You try not to make it change your approach,” Lewis said. “You have to go out there and make birdies, but early on there were pins that you just couldn’t go at.”

Lewis, who was paired with Ryu in the final group on Sunday, finished the front nine still five shots back of the leader as others in the field were also charging up the leaderboard.

The same held true on the back nine as Lewis could never get on a roll with some tough missed putts. And Ryu kept knocking in shots to hold the lead as the late afternoon sun slipped lower in the sky.

“I was just a few putts here and there from really giving it a run and making 18 matter a little bit more,” Lewis said.

On the par-5, 18th, Lewis brought the huge grandstand crowd to its feet as her second shot bounced to the top of the green, then rolled back to within three feet of the pin.

Lewis, always the fan favorite at this event, tapped in the putt for eagle, then walked to the side of the green to watch Ryu finish out her record 18-under.

“The shot on 18 was really cool,” Lewis said. “I thought I pulled it a little too much, but I got a nice little kick off the bunker and I knew the backspin was there. It would have been cool if it went in, but it was just a nice way to finish.”

Harry Hardy with Octagon Events and the tournament director, was beaming after the awards ceremony on 18, and with good reason. Tournament officials had near-perfect weather for all three days, other than a 45-minute lightning delay on Friday. Cool temperatures and brilliant blue skies were the norm all weekend.

And that in turn brought out fans in droves as the galleries on both Saturday and Sunday flooded Pinnacle Country Club. Having Lewis in contention was a big part of the draw along with other Arkansas golfers, Hardy said.

“Incredible,” Hardy said when asked to describe the week. “If you could pick a script in terms of weather, in terms of crowd, in terms of fan engagement, we had it.

“It helps a lot and she plays well every year, thankfully. Certainly if she’s playing well, the crowds come out and support her.”

Lewis, whose last tour win came her in 2014, heads into next week’s major confident that her game is continuing to come around after a tough end to the 2016 season and a slow start this season.

The KPMG is this week, and the U.S. Women’s open is July 13-16, and Lewis feels like she is ready to contend in both.

“My game is so close,” she said. “We’ve got majors coming up and I’m excited about where my game is right now.”

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