Give Stacy Lewis credit for heading back to China this week.
A year after she left Beijing bitter over the way she lost the Reignwood LPGA Classic to China’s own Shanshan Feng, Lewis returns to make amends for any ill feelings she may have caused with her comments and tweets in the wake of last year’s hard defeat. She made it clear, she’s also back to win.
“I definitely, probably, didn't handle things the way I wanted to,” Lewis said Tuesday in her pre-tournament news conference in Beijing.
With the Rolex world No. 1 ranking, Lewis brings star power, credibility and an American draw to the second-year Asian event. It’s a considerable offering given she could have skipped the event after all the backlash she received following the loss. She disengaged from Twitter for several months because of it.
Lewis is the only American among the top 50 in the world rankings who committed to play in China this week. Christina Kim is the next highest ranked American in the field at No. 59.
A year ago, Lewis took a one-shot lead on Feng to the final hole in Beijing, only to watch Feng beat her in dramatic fashion with a closing eagle. Feng’s second shot reached the green after taking a giant bounce off hard turf while barely clearing a water hazard. That bounce frustrated Lewis, who struggled with all the heavy partisan support Feng received from the fans there, many new to golf.
“I feel like it was just taken from me,” Lewis said immediately following the loss last year. “You’d like to win on a good shot, but, obviously, it wasn’t a good shot. It was a frustrating day just with the crowds and dealing with all that. It was hard to play today.”
In the aftermath, Lewis also tweeted that she was “very disappointed in the fans in China” and with all the distraction of cameras and in the “cheering when I missed putts.”
A lot of players complained about the smog and all the camera-carrying fans making for difficult conditions.
Lewis was asked in her news conference Tuesday why she returned.
“I think the first reason is I like the golf course, and I played well on it, so I wanted to come back to a course that I felt like I had a good opportunity to win on,” Lewis said. “Second, was just to kind of right the ship from last year. I just regretted the way I handled things, so I just wanted to be the bigger person and come back and play again. Really, just to give a second chance and prove more to myself that I can handle it and I can play under any situation.”