Golf

Lewis grounded despite lofty ranking

MIGHT AS WELL JUMP
Stacy Lewis' mom, Carol (second from right), broke her leg in this 2011 celebration.
GolfWeek Beth Ann Baldry
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RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif.

Stacy Lewis walked into the Holiday Inn Express here in the desert, and the guy at the front desk asked if she was here to play in the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Lewis confirmed.

“Wait a second . . .” the man said.

Yes, she’s that player. The current world No. 1. The woman who stayed at that same hotel in 2011 and won a tournament as a pro for the first time (a major, no less).

So much has changed since then, yet she’s still lugging her own suitcase to a modest hotel room for a modest rate. There’s nothing flashy here, folks.

Lewis, who rose to No. 1 several weeks ago in Phoenix, called her life since then “chaos.”

“I expected it, but it was a little bit overwhelming,” she said.

Lewis went toe-to-toe with Yani Tseng here two years ago and kick-started a whirlwind ride to the top. She now has won seven LPGA events and a Rolex Player of the Year trophy. She’s as poised and well-spoken as they come in the media room, the new face of the LPGA.

“I guess I'm just more comfortable with who I am and more comfortable being in front of people,” Lewis said. “I mean, certainly I think the kid that went to college and didn't speak unless spoken to would not be up on this stage right now.”

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Lewis leads the tour’s money list, US Solheim Cup points list and Rolex Player of the Year points. She tops her peers in scoring average, birdies, eagles, rounds in the 60s, and sub-par holes. She’s second in putting and fifth in greens in regulation. And, not to be outdone off the tee, Lewis is a respectable 21st in driving distance.

“She’s making me work harder,” Paula Creamer said.

Lewis, 28, comes into the year’s first major the undisputed favorite. How did she spend her off week preparing? Lewis flew to North Carolina to watch her beloved Razorbacks compete in the Bryan National Collegiate. Naturally, they asked a lot of questions of her. Lewis gave both players and coaches advice on tour life.

“I talked to a lot of the coaches there and I said, ‘We need to develop these players better coming out of college and get them more prepared for the tour,’ ” she said. “So that was part of me going there . . . to show them how it can be done, and that they don't have to turn pro at 18 or 20. They can finish school, get a degree and then come out and be successful, too.”

While many players like to keep their goals a secret, Lewis has never been shy about her desire to become world No. 1. She said if players aren’t comfortable talking about it, then they “obviously aren’t comfortable being there.”

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That no-nonsense kind of talk is refreshing in the sports world. Her plan for staying No. 1 is fairly simple: Have fun.

“I think I learned a lot from watching Yani over the last year,” Lewis said. “She had a couple bad weeks and let it become a burden of staying at No. 1.”

Lewis, a double-major at Arkansas, is a smart woman. She can outthink most players on tour, and that comes in handy on a track like the Dinah Shore Tournament Course.

When Lewis won the Kraft in 2011, her mom broke her leg jumping into Poppie’s Pond with Stacy’s father, sister and caddie. It was big story coming out of Kraft, and it left Carol Lewis upset that she had taken away from her daughter’s shining moment.

Stacy didn’t see it that way, however, and wants her mom to jump with her on Sunday, should things turn out well.

“She needs to redeem herself,” Lewis said.

Hopefully, the Holiday Inn Express has a pool.

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