They share common bonds.
Stacy Lewis and Michelle Wie joined the LPGA together, both emerging through Q-School late in 2008 to earn their tour cards.
They both graduated from college, Lewis from the University of Arkansas and Wie from Stanford University. They value education and highly recommend it for juniors coming up.
They’re also practically neighbors now in South Florida, Lewis setting up her home in Palm Beach Gardens and Wie in Jupiter.
Still, the friendship they’ve formed over the last year strikes people as odd because they couldn’t be more different as personalities. They’ll tell you that with so much being made of their importance to the women’s game on the eve of the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
Wie, 24, is the painter who is into shoes and fashion and fine dining. Lewis, 29, is the finance and accounting major, more analytical by nature in how she views the world. She’s a Texan, rooted in that state’s rugged, ambitious view of life, work and play.
Wie came up in the game making it look easy, qualifying for an LPGA event when she was 12, playing in a PGA Tour event when she was 14 and turning pro when she was 15.
Lewis was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was 11. She hardly played in AJGA events growing up. When Wie began playing against men in PGA Tour events back in ’04, Lewis wasn’t even playing. She was sidelined on a medical redshirt at Arkansas, recovering from surgery to help mend her crooked back.
Still, today, these vastly different tour stars share a bond as broken players who put themselves back together. Lewis did so after her surgery, becoming an All-American and NCAA champion with the Razorbacks. Wie did so after injuries and some psychological trauma that came with being tagged as a failed prodigy and cautionary tale.
With Lewis and Wie the favorites to win the Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale this week, there’s mutual respect and admiration in how their different paths got them where they are today.
Lewis is the world No. 1, an 11-time LPGA winner going for her fourth title this season.
Wie is No. 6 in the world, coming off her breakthrough U.S. Women’s Open victory at Pinehurst No. 2 last month.
They rank 1-2 on the LPGA tour this season in scoring, money, Rolex Player of the Year points and top-10 finishes. They came to Royal Birkdale having won the last two LPGA events staged.
“Obviously, we have the golf as the common bond, but, yeah, Michelle is the artsy kind of goofy person, and I'm definitely not that,” Lewis told reporters in her news conference Tuesday at Royal Birkdale. “I don't know what that is, but I’m not artsy at all. You go to her house, she's painted everything that's on her walls. It's all her paintings.”
And yet even as they battle to claim the biggest prizes in women’s golf, they’re finding a bond in their common cause. Wie plays out of the Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Lewis out of Medalist Golf Club in nearby Hobe Sound. They play matches together when they’re home, and on the Fourth of July, Wie invited Lewis to her home for a holiday party.
“I don't really know what it is, but I enjoy hanging around her,” Lewis said.
Lewis, always the analyst, is fascinated in how Wie has handled her fame and the harsh scrutiny that comes with it.
“It's cool how I've learned a lot from her, and how she has handled the media, and how she's handled the pressures and the expectations,” Lewis said. “She doesn't read anything that anybody writes, and she doesn't really care what anybody thinks about her. Wish I could be like that, too. There are some things about her that I've tried to be more like, and probably vice versa, I would think.”
Lewis said she got to know Wie better as a person playing in the last two Solheim Cups together, then as South Florida neighbors.
“I think once she went to school and went to Stanford, she really kind of became a different person,” Lewis said. “Now, she hangs out with players more, and she gets out and goes to dinner with people, instead of just kind of sticking to her team all the time. That's kind of when it all changed, I think.”
Wie has come to appreciate Lewis’ quiet strengths and sneaky good sense of humor.
“You know, at first, she doesn't really open up, and you kind of don't know how funny she is, or how quirky she is, and how sarcastic she is sometimes,” Wie said. “The last year, I've really gotten to know her. We've played a lot of golf together, and she's awesome. I definitely have gotten pretty close to her, and she's definitely a lot of fun.”
“I think she's really kind, too. A lot of people don't see is how kind she is. She took Jaye Marie Green and gave her a three‑hour chipping lesson. We got her on to the golf course, and she was teaching her everything.”
Lewis wanted that U.S. Women’s Open trophy, but she was magnanimous in her understanding of what Wie went through to win it as she stood beside the 18th green watching Wie close out at Pinehurst. And while coming up short of the prize had to hurt, Lewis was able to see something else in Wie’s win, too.
“I don't know if anybody could be a female Tiger Woods, but Michelle definitely moves the needle,” Lewis said. “I think her playing good golf is good for everyone. It's good for the tour, and it's good for the other players. It really is a great, great thing. I said the U.S. Open couldn't have been scripted any better there. We are on our biggest stage there, and our biggest star is winning there, and she won't even tell you that, but she is our biggest star and she moves the needle and her winning there was huge for us.”
Wie sounds grateful just to be lumped in the company of Lewis.
“I feel very honored that people are comparing me to her, or putting me up against her,” Wie said.
There’s motivation in that. Wie came into the year saying her only goal was to be more consistent. She sees the epitome of consistency in Lewis.
“I've just got to keep getting more consistent,” Wie said. “That's what Stacy is, she's consistent. She's deadly consistent, annoyingly consistent.”
Nobody’s been more consistently in contention this year than Lewis and Wie, and if their habits grow another week, the game just might see them battling down the stretch of another major this weekend.
“I love battling down the stretch with anybody, and if it was Michelle, that would be a great thing,” Lewis said. “We're never going to hate each other, though, so we are never going to be saying bad things about each other, and we are going to fight til the end, and then you congratulate the winner, and you go work hard and try and win the next week.
“It's going to take both of us playing good golf. Obviously, we can't just coast now because other people are going to be coming up trying to beat us, too. We both have to just keep working hard and see what happens.”