Out of the way, folks.
Stacy Lewis is playing through, and she’s playing fast.
Move over Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer, there’s a new face leading the way in American women’s golf.
It’s a sweet, cherubic face belying a certain ruthless, competitive spirit that appears determined to lead the red, white and blue back to prominence in the women’s game.
With her runaway victory Sunday at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, Lewis is projected to move to No. 3 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, which will make her the top American in the world.
“I don’t know what to say, it’s just so unbelievable,” Lewis said. “You can see yourself getting there eventually, but for it to happen, it’s unbelievable. For it to happen this quickly is pretty surprising.”
Kerr has reigned supreme over USA golf as the highest ranked American since November of 2009. Really, though, Kerr has dominated that role for a half dozen years. She’s the only American to hold the No. 1 ranking. Paula Creamer was the top American when the rankings made their debut in 2006, and she’s the only other player besides Kerr to hold the top American ranking.
The American landscape is changing quickly, though.
Lewis has now won the LPGA’s last two stroke-play events. She won the Mobile LPGA Classic last month. She won in Mobile with four consecutive rounds in the 60s, and then she opened ShopRite with a pair of 65s.
Lewis is smoking hot.
Despite a stumble with a double bogey and pair of bogeys in the middle of her round Sunday at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club outside Atlantic City, Lewis still won by four shots.
When Lewis won in Mobile, 17-year-old American Lexi Thompson was second. In another sign the American landscape is changing, Thompson was once again the highest ranked American behind Lewis on Sunday, tying for fifth.
Though Lewis won her first major last year, beating world No. 1 Yani Tseng head to head in a final-round duel at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Lewis felt overlooked coming into this season.
“It does put a little bit of a chip on your shoulder,” Lewis said. “Even last year, I got a little bit overlooked. It was definitely motivation coming into this year.”
Lewis, 27, is mounting a charge up more than the American ranks. With her Sunday victory, Lewis moved to second in the Rolex Player of the Year points race behind Tseng. Lewis is within reach of catching Tseng, who has won the last two Rolex POY awards. Tseng has 120 Rolex points, Lewis 99. With a victory this coming week counting double at the Wegmans LPGA Championship, there will be 60 points available to the winner.
No American has won Rolex Player of the Year honors since Beth Daniel did so in 1994. No American has won the LPGA money title since 1993.
It’s a good time, in that regard, for an American to get hot. There are two majors and three of the richest purses in women’s golf over the next five events this summer.
Lewis wants Tseng’s No. 1 ranking, but she’s realistic. Tseng’s so far ahead in world-ranking points, nobody’s going to catch her anytime soon. Still, Lewis and Kerr might have the best combination of game and moxie to catch Tseng. Lewis has won three times in the last 15 months, more than any other American. Kerr hasn’t won in that span.
“It’s always in the back of my head, it’s just hard when Yani’s so far ahead,” Lewis said. “It’s going to take chipping away at it.”