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Lewis Hopes to be the One to Break Park's Hot Streak
Stacy Lewis is as impressed as anyone by the incredible play of Inbee Park. And who wouldn't be? The 24-year-old South Korean is putting up a season to remember.
She's recorded two straight victories and five on the year, two of which are the LPGA's only major championships so far - the Kraft Nabisco in April and the LPGA Championship three weeks ago. If that streak continues, Park will be going down in the history books.
This week the LPGA Tour is at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., for the ladies' third major, the U.S. Women's Open. The $3.25 million event starts Thursday.
No female player has won three straight majors since Babe Zaharias in 1950. Lewis hopes to be the one to halt Park's streak, but the former No. 1 - who was bumped from the top spot by Park after the Kraft Nabisco - knows it won't be easy.
"I know people like to see somebody make history and do all of that, but for players it's frustrating to see someone sit there and win week after week after week," Lewis told reporters Tuesday.
"But she's making good putts and she's steady. Every time I feel like she may have an okay round and then the next day she's up there on the leaderboard again. She's just always there, always giving herself a chance, and nothing really seemed to faze her. That's the big thing. She just makes putt after putt after putt, and she's there at the end of the day."
Lewis doesn't attribute losing her No. 1 ranking - which she earned when she won the RR Donnelley Founders Cup in March, unseating Yani Tseng - to bad play. It's just that the consistent Park has been a juggernaut.
"I don't feel like I played that poorly," Lewis said. "I don't see it as I lost No. 1. I see it as Inbee just took it from me. She came out and she bulldozed the field the last two majors. I don't feel like I lost it, I just feel like somebody's playing better. That motivates me to want to get there. It's just kind of the way - golf is just a rollercoaster. It's just the way it is."
During her Q&A with the media on Tuesday, Lewis also touched on other topics, including her thoughts on Sebonac, a private course co-designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak on Long Island that overlooks Great Peconic Bay. The venue should be a wonderful new site for the premier championship in women's golf.
Lewis, now ranked No. 2, will start play Thursday on the 10th tee at 7:40 a.m. (ET) with Park and No. 3 Suzann Pettersen of Norway. Here's what Lewis had to tell reporters.
MODERATOR: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, my name's Christina Lance. I'm very happy to welcome you all to the 68th playing of the U.S. Women's Open Championship here at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, New York. Thank you for coming and thank you to Stacy Lewis for joining us today. Stacy is competing in her 7th Women's Open, best finish being tied for third in 2008. Looking at the schedule so far this year, you have two victories, off to a good start, ranked second in the world. How do you feel coming into the championship?
STACY LEWIS: Well, actually, I feel really good. Kind of worked on some things last week and played really well last week. I'm really excited about where my golf swing is at and the way I hit the ball. Last week I was just a couple putts away from winning the tournament. So, I'm really excited about my game. I love this golf course. It's a second shot golf course, which I think suits my game pretty well, so I'm just ready to get going.
MODERATOR: You said you played the back nine yesterday getting ready for your first 18. What's it like coming into a championship? Have you played the course before? What's it like coming into the championship where you don't necessarily have the background?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I played Sebonack two years ago in a charity event. But, I don't know. I've never been one I've never liked coming in early to play a U.S. Open course ahead of time, because I feel like the conditions can change a lot in that couple of weeks before, so I've never been one to do that. I like to just get here the week before and learn the golf course. We get three practice rounds, so I think you have plenty of time to learn the course, and I don't know. I think it's going to be a good test this week though.
Q. Stacy, how do you feel about playing a links style course for the U.S. Open? How does that compare to say the British where you're on a bay, you're on the water, you're going to get wind, you could get weather?
STACY LEWIS: I really like links style course. I like it because you can be very creative. There is more than one way to get the ball to the hole. It feels like the last few U.S. Opens, it's all been how straight you can drive the ball, and that is kind of who has won the tournament. So I like this year that you don't have to drive it perfect off the tees, but you've got to play smart into the greens. You can take it off of ridges, you can go multiple ways to get the ball close, and I like that. I think it brings in another aspect of the game that the U.S. Opens haven't tested in the past few years.
Q. I know you've told us about your relationship with this tournament, your desire to win it. Can you just expand on that a little bit? What the history has been like for you and what your desire is like to win this event?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I mean, if you're a U.S. player, this is your National Championship. This is the tournament you want to win. This is the trophy you want to have. It's definitely been my nemesis the last few years. I think more of the emotional side of it, I haven't handled very well. So this week, my number one goal is to see how level I can remain all week. I think you look at Justin Rose, when he won a couple weeks ago, he didn't get he got excited when he made a birdie, but he didn't get too excited. When he made a bogey, he didn't get too upset. So I think it's how level you can stay all week and how patient you can be.
Q. Do you change your game plan at all because of the golf course?
STACY LEWIS: Well, I think every week our game plan is always changing depending on the conditions of the course. It will change throughout the week depending on how firm the golf course gets. Yesterday I hit a lot of drivers, and I think during the tournament there will be a lot of 3 woods off tees just because the ball will be rolling out more. So I think your game plan at a U.S. Open is always changing.
Q. How unique do you find the green complexes?
STACY LEWIS: Oh, the greens are probably the toughest part this week. I mean, what me and my caddie did yesterday is we looked at all the hole locations and said where do we need to leave it for this one? Where can you miss it? where can you not hit it, and that is the key. You can't miss it in the wrong places. You've got to be below the hole. You can't get above the hole and have all these downhill, side-hill putts, because you're going to three putt them. So you've got to be really smart into the greens. You can't just hit the middle of the green and move on. You've got to sometimes missing the green a little bit short might be better.
Q. You've talked about keeping your emotions level. Have you done anything in preparation for that?
STACY LEWIS: I mean, there is really not a whole lot you can do until you get out there. But I tried to work on it some last week. Being in Arkansas was really, it felt like a major championship to me. So I kind of used that as an experience to help me learn on trying to keep those emotions in check, and not getting too upset. I really thought I handled it pretty well. I didn't play as well as I would have liked on Sunday, but I was still able to have fun at the end of the round and come out of there with a lot of positives.
Q. Have there been times in the past U.S. Opens where you've looked back and said, oh, I could have handled that better? Is there a particular instance?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I think Colorado Springs. I don't remember exactly what round. I think it was the middle of the second round, and I kind of had a bad stretch of four or five holes, and I let that decide the whole golf tournament for me. You know, I think looking back, if I would have - you know, everybody's going to have a bad stretch of holes, and if I would have just been okay with it and just kind of kept trucking through it, I would have been fine. But instead I let it affect the rest of the tournament, and I went from tied for the lead and I think I finished 40th. So I really kind of let things go the other way.
Q. Do you know what round that was?
STACY LEWIS: I don't remember exactly. I think it was the second round.
Q. Couple of things with regard to what you're talking about there. It's interesting. Do you observe the men's game sometimes and do you watch it on TV? You mentioned what you saw Justin. Is that kind of a regular practice for you to just pick things up like that, whether it's Tiger or anybody?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I think I've always been a player that I like to learn from other people, and I especially like watching people under pressure and watching how they handle the big situations. So watching that on Sunday, I think I learned a lot from it. I don't know. I guess I probably watched it more because the U.S. Open has been the tournament. If you look at my record the last two years that's kind of the one that stands out. I watch Karrie Webb, I watch Yani, I watch what Inbee's doing. You can learn a lot from watching other players.
Q. Follow up, completely unrelated. When you were younger and Annika was on her run, and Lorena was on her run, and then Yani had the run, what did you observe out of that to have that sustained success? Now that you've had a couple of good years now and you've kind of elevated yourself, can you speak to the difficulty of sustaining it?
STACY LEWIS: Well, truthfully, I didn't really watch a whole lot of golf when Annika was doing what she did. I mean, I think what I can draw from is Yani. She played so good for so long. What it really was was making putts under pressure. I think you look at what Inbee's doing right now, and she's making putts under pressure. I think that's how you play good golf. I've been fortunate that I've been able to do that. My putting has been a little streaky, but overall the last few years I've putted really well, and that's how you play good, consistent golf.
Q. One follow up to that, is it difficult to kind of continue? You're hungry for the U.S. Open right now. Is it difficult to keep that hunger for a sustained period of time? Is it human nature to be happy at the top and then it's time to see that?
STACY LEWIS: Not for me. I always want to win golf tournaments. That's my goal every week is to win. The rankings and all that stuff are nice, but I just want to give myself a chance to win on Sunday. And that, to me, never gets old. Being in contention, being in those last few groups, feeling the nerves, that's what I play for. So if that ever gets old for me, then I'm doing this for the wrong reasons.
Q. I noticed you're playing with Karrie this afternoon. Did you play with her yesterday as well? I'm sure that's not by chance. I know you guys are friends, but did you want to play here with her purposefully? She's won a couple of these tournaments where you can pick her brain out there?
STACY LEWIS: We've played a practice round together the last few years. She's asked me to play with her. And you can't really say no to that. So it's fun though. It's fun to watch her, watch how she prepares for them, and watch what chip shots - she's hitting a lot of chip shots around the greens. Not hitting too many shots into not really worrying about that too much, but doing a lot of short game. I've been fortunate. She's been a mentor and she's been a friend to me. But as I said before, I've learned so much from her that the more you play with her, I think you learn something every time.
Q. I know last week you really want to win that badly and Inbee Park took that one. Can you talk about how she's pushing you and elevating your game? Obviously, she's a great putter, but what else you're impressed by?
STACY LEWIS: It's frustrating for the rest of us, that's for sure. I know people like to see somebody make history and do all of that, but for players it's frustrating to see someone sit there and win week after week after week. But she's making good putts and she's steady. Every time I feel like she may have an okay round and then the next day she's up there on the leaderboard again. She's just always there, always giving herself a chance, and nothing really seemed to faze her. That's the big thing. She just makes putt after putt after putt, and she's there at the end of the day.
Q. I'm wondering, compared to the men's Tour, it seems like the LPGA or the women's group has a succession of these women that absolutely dominate, like Annika and Lorena, and Yani and now Inbee. Do you have any thoughts on why that happens more in the women's game?
STACY LEWIS: I honestly have no idea. I don't know. I think we have a lot of great players at the top, but I don't know why people have gone on runs like that. Obviously, it's hard to stay there. I don't know if you could quite say that Inbee is quite there yet, but over the last year she's played really, really good. I mean, Yani did it for three or four years, so I don't know what it is. I'd like to get on that run whatever it is.
Q. You started off the year really hot and you won two tournaments back to back, rose to No. 1, and you kind of had a stretch of inconsistent play or whatever you want to call it. Can you talk about - was that because you were No. 1, the pressure of that?
STACY LEWIS: It's golf. I think golf you go on streaks where you play good. You go on streaks where you play poorly. I don't feel like I played that poorly. I don't see it as I lost No. 1. I see it as Inbee just took it from me. She came out and she bulldozed the field the last two majors. I don't feel like I lost it, I just feel like somebody's playing better. That motivates me to want to get there. It's just kind of the way - golf is just a rollercoaster. It's just the way it is.
Q. I wanted to find out how did you get here this week? Were you part of that charter on Sunday night or Monday morning?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, we finished about 6:30 in Arkansas, and we were on a charter flight that left about 8 o'clock, and we landed here on Long Island about 11:30, then got to bed about 1:00 a.m.
Q. What was that like? What's it say about the camaraderie of your Tour that basically the whole Tour came to this tournament together?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, well, obviously it made it easy. Arkansas's hard to get anywhere from, but to get here, it made it pretty easy. It's fun. I mean, we travel as a Tour. We're a family out here. A lot of us don't have our families traveling week in and week out so, we stay together on the road. We rent hotels together, we rent houses together, and it's just kind of the way things are out here.
Q. Unrelated, but you started out by saying that you're so proud, this is such a big event for American players and things go in cycles. Americans have their dominance, Korean players have their dominance. What do you feel right now, where is American women's golf, and what do you feel about the future of it?
STACY LEWIS: I honestly feel like we're going in the right direction. We're having a lot of young talents getting some experience of being in those final groups. Jessica Korda has played well this year, Lizette Salas lost in the playoffs. So they're getting what it feels like to be in those final groups, and that's what it takes to really win majors and move up the rankings is to get experience in those final groups. So they're doing that. They're fiery and they're young, so I'm excited about it. We have Solheim in a couple of months, and it's, I think we're going into a good time. We have a good mix of veterans, and we have some young ones coming up too.
CHRISTINA LANCE: Do you ever have the opportunity to mentor one of the young players? I mean, you're still one of the young players yourself, but you talk about the Lizettes and the Jessicas coming up, what kind of advice do you have for them?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I try to whenever they have questions about things. I stayed and watched Lizette's playoff in Hawaii, and she was pretty devastated when it ended. I kind of just grabbed her and took her to the locker room and gave her her time to kind of get over it because we've all been there. We all know what that feels like. So I try to do what I can to help out the girls. And just to show, I mean, more than anything, I want them to see that you can go to college for four or five years and still come out and win golf tournaments, win majors and be No. 1 in the world. And that's what I hope the young players are seeing.
Q. You recently mentioned you weren't too sure about how long a playing window you're going to have because of your back. Watching Ken Duke win this past week, does that boost your confidence for having a longer window?
STACY LEWIS: It does. It definitely put a smile on my face. I've actually met Ken and we talked about our backs and stuff. He's in his mid 40s and he's still playing golf at a high level and he's competitive. The doctors don't really know what our timeframe is, how long we can do what we're doing. So the fact that he's doing it is definitely exciting for me.
Q. Do you work with a sports psychologist?
STACY LEWIS: No, I don't.
Q. Have you thought about doing that?
STACY LEWIS: Nope (laughing). I go out there and I hit the ball, go find it.
MODERATOR: Stacy, any last words?
STACY LEWIS: I just wanted to add that with KPMG this week, I have my blue hat on today because we're doing a KPMG Blue for Books. Whenever people buy my hat, and whenever you buy the hat, 100 percent of the proceeds goes to buying three books for underprivileged kids. We're starting this week. KPMG started this with Phil a few weeks ago, so it's cool to be part of that, and we're launching it this week.
MODERATOR: Great cause there. Thank you so much, Stacy. We wish you the best this week.
STACY LEWIS: Thank you very much.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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