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Stacy Lewis wins Kraft Nabisco Championship

The 26-year-old's first LPGA victory comes in Rancho Mirage at the season's first major.

April 03, 2011|By Diane Pucin
  • Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Stacy Lewis (right) is drenched in champagne by fellow pro Karrie Webb at Mission Hills Country Club on Sunday.
Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Stacy Lewis (right) is drenched in champagne… (Danny Moloshok / Reuters )

Stacy Lewis made a 15-foot putt for par on the 17th hole, a shot that took a hard left turn as it slowed. It was as if a GPS voice in Lewis' head told her ball, "Left turn in two feet."

When the ball dropped, Lewis bent over. Her head was down; her shaking hands were on her legs. Lewis didn't look up until Yani Tseng finished that same par-three 17th hole with a dispiriting bogey.

Lewis, a 26-year-old who had never won a professional tournament, now has a big one.

With a final round of three-under-par 69, Lewis finished the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage with a 13-under 72-hole total of 275 and a three-shot win over Tseng, the defending champion. Tseng, a 22-year-old from Taiwan, began the day with a two-shot lead over Lewis and with such confidence that she hugged and kissed the champion's trophy on the first hole, causing the gallery to cheer.

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But it was Lewis who did a joyous leap into Poppie's Pond at the end.

Lewis was joined in the watery splash by her father and mentor, Dale; her mother, Carol; her younger sister, Janet; and her caddie, Travis Wilson.

It was not the triumphant exclamation that the family was looking for, though. Carol Lewis left the course and went to a hospital because of what Dale Lewis said was a possible broken leg.

"And she's training for a marathon," Dale Lewis said. "She ran 14 miles this morning before Stacy teed off."

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Five of the top six finishers Sunday were Americans. Katie Futcher, Angela Stanford and 2007 champion Morgan Pressel tied for third, nine shots behind Lewis. Pressel had twice gotten to 10 under during her final round but was done in by a double bogey, a triple bogey and a quadruple bogey that negated five birdies.

Michelle Wie was alone in sixth place, her best finish in a major since 2006 but a disappointment Sunday when her final-round 75 never gave her a chance to pressure Lewis and Tseng.

On Wednesday, a few hours before she teed off in the pro-am, Lewis learned that her 84-year-old grandfather Al Lewis, Dale's father, had died.

"My grandfather lived via my golf," Lewis said. "He loved watching it on TV. I think he and my grandma, they both got to see me play the whole round today and they were out there with me for sure."

Tseng, ranked No. 1 in the world, said she never felt comfortable Sunday, especially in the windy conditions.

"The greens were pretty firm," she said. "I found it very hard to adjust my distance and the speed of my putting."

The ninth hole was the first turning point. Tseng bogeyed the par-five hole and Lewis birdied it, taking a one-stroke lead. Another birdie by Lewis on No. 12 gave her a two-shot cushion that was reduced by one when she bogeyed the 15th.

Then came the dangerous 17th hole. Lewis' drive on the par-three hole ended up in a bunker.

"It was a nervous shot," she said. Her recovery from the trap landed about 15 feet away, leading to the par putt. "I was shocked it went in," Lewis said.

As she walked to the 18th green, ahead by three and with the gallery cheering, Lewis sought advice from her caddie.

"I was still kind of upset," she said. "I kind of had my head down. My caddie said it's not many people that get this walk and that I'd better smile."

So Lewis smiled. And then, she said, "it turned into the best walk I ever had."

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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