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Americans off to hottest LPGA start since '97

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Lizette Salas continued an American resurgence in women’s golf with her breakthrough victory Sunday at the Kingsmill Championship.

Salas is the fourth American to win over the last five LPGA events.

Salas is the sixth different American to win an LPGA title in the tour’s 11 events this year. Just four different Americans combined to win all of last year, just five different Americans in all of 2012, just three in all of 2011 and just three in all of 2010.

The Americans are looking to build on their hottest start since 1997, the last time they won six of the first 11 LPGA events staged in a year.

“I think it's an unbelievable thing,” Stacy Lewis said at the start of the Kingsmill Championship about Americans hoisting so many trophies this season. “It's a great thing for this tour. We've needed it over the last few years, to kind of get sponsors on board, and get people paying attention to us, people writing about us, people watching. That's what we need to do. Young Americans playing well is a great thing.”

Salas, 24, has been knocking on the door to her first victory for the last two seasons.

“Oh my God, it is a dream come true,” Salas said. “A lot of emotions right now.”

Salas jumps to No. 10 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. That gives the Americans six players among the top 12 in the world rankings.

The U.S. players among the top 12 today are No. 2 Lewis, No. 6 Lexi Thompson, No. 9 Paula Creamer, No. 10 Salas, No. 11 Cristie Kerr and No. 12 Michelle Wie.

“It’s great for women’s golf, and it’s great for women’s sports in general,” Creamer said. “We’ve been asked many years now, ‘Where are the Americans? Where are the Americans?’ We’re here. We’ve always been there, just a little outnumbered at times. There are a lot of great juniors that are coming through the ranks as well. You see a lot of hope for us.”

With the rise of Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and then the South Koreans and Asians in women’s golf, Americans have steadily watched their dominance of the game erode for more than a decade.

The state of the American women’s game seemed to hit a low point late last summer, when the Europeans didn’t just beat the Americans for the first time in back-to-back Solheim Cups, but beat them for the first time on American soil, doing so in a record 18-10 rout.

Lewis was the only American in the top 10 in the world rankings when the Solheim Cup was staged at Colorado Golf Club last year. She has a chance to take the American resurgence to yet another level this week at the Airbus LPGA Classic. She can overtake Inbee Park and regain the  No. 1 ranking there.

The American resurgence feels like it’s coming with their overtaking South Korea as the top women’s golfing nation in the world. While the South Korean Park continues to lead the world rankings, South Korea has yet to claim an LPGA title this year. The Americans took the No. 1 seed from South Korea in the last week of qualifying for this year’s International Crown, the LPGA’s new Olympic-style event scheduled at Caves Valley outside Baltimore in July.