by Jeff Skinner
The golf world was focused on St. Andrews this week hoping to witness history with Inbee Park’s pursuit of the Grand Slam. Well, history of a different sort was made on those hallowed links of the Old Course.
Stacy Lewis had the Sunday of a lifetime and forged a come from behind victory at the Women’s British Open that will go down in history as one of the best ever.
Lewis’ history began at St. Andrews when she led the victorious U.S. with an historic 5-0 record in the ’08 Curtis Cup and she continued her good fortune on the links with a finish that smacked of Seve and Jack and plenty of grit.
As the leaders struggled on the back nine Lewis who was three shots back gutted it out on the closing holes to overtake Na Yeon Choi with an astonishing finish.
Lewis was the only player among the leaders to finish her round at par or better but it looked like she may have lost her chance at history when she made the turn. She started her back nine with bogeys at eleven and twelve and her birdie at fourteen was offset by another bogey at fifteen where she stood at six under, having lost two shots to par on the day.
But the back nine at the Old Course was exacting revenge on all the leaders on Sunday and as Lewis stood on the seventeenth tee, looking at the infamous Road Hole she knew she still had a chance.
She piped her drive over the Old Course Hotel and had a perfect lie in the fairway. She the hit her best shot of the week and what she called “The best shot I ever hit.” Her stroke with her five iron picked the ball cleanly, landed short of the green and rolled straight to the hole settling four feet from the cup.
It was one of the best shots ever in major history at St. Andrews and she knew it. “I hit the perfect golf shot,” said Lewis. “I mean, that was the shot ‑‑ I saw the shot in my head, but to actually pull it off, when it counts, it doesn’t ‑‑ a shot like that doesn’t happen very often. So I knew after I hit it close, I was like, all right, I have to make this putt; somehow this putt was going to go in, because the shot was so good.”
We talk about Justin Rose’s shot on eighteen at Merion as being clutch but this shot, considering where and when it happened has to be the “Major Shot of the Year.”
On eighteen she hit a perfect drive that left her forty yards in and chose to play true links golf and putted it through the Valley of Sin. With a lengthy putt of twenty five feet left for a birdie Lewis relied on her Curtis Cup memories and was at her gritty best. “I remember one of my matches in Curtis Cup, the pin was in that similar place, and I remember having a putt back up the hill and leaving it short,” said Lewis. “So that’s kind of the mistake there is to not get the put to the hole, because you say the swale on the other side, you think it’s downhill but it’s actually back up the hill.
“So I had a little bit of knowledge there, and that whole right half of the green doesn’t break as much as you think,” said Lewis. “It’s kind of a visual thing with the other side of the green. I knew what that putt did. The hardest part was just getting it to the hole. Right off the face, it looked pretty good, and it was pretty cool when it went in.”
She finished at eight under par, just where she started the day and waited for the field to finish. As the back nine took its toll on the rest of the field (two over par on the back was the best any of the leaders could manage) Lewis was left standing alone at eight under par with a two stroke win over Na Yeon Choi and Hee Young Park.
It is her second major championship and one for the ages. To come from behind on a day she played 36 holes of golf and to finish birdie, birdie at the Home of Golf has to be a career moment for the 28 year old.
Lewis has quietly become the face of golf for the United States in women’s golf. While many players may get more publicity for a number of reasons there is simply no better American woman playing golf.
She’ll lead the U.S. Solheim Cup team in two weeks and no doubt will be showing plenty of her grit and guts that make her such a determined player .
With two majors in the last two years, the 2012 Rolex Player of the Year trophy and three wins this season Lewis is at the top of her game and is hunting down Inbee Park to get back to number one in the world.
And it’s a pleasure to watch a young woman in full bloom make her charge.