Stacy Lewis’ 5-iron shot fell out of the heavens with a thump so glorious her swing coach could feel it halfway around the world.
Joe Hallett was visiting friends in St. Louis when Lewis carved her brilliant shot at the Road Hole through more than buffeting winds at St. Andrews when she won the Ricoh Women’s British Open last year. Riveted to a television, Hallet relished seeing his player work a shot through air as thick with history as there is in golf. He saw her hit one of the greatest shots ever played in a major championship.
Hallett couldn’t contain his joy when Lewis’ little draw bounded to within 3 feet at No. 17 in that iconic setting at the home of golf.
“I leaped a lot higher than Phil Mickelson did when he made that putt to win the Masters,” Hallett cracked. “I’m sure the people living above my friends could hear me yell and the people living downstairs could hear the thud of my feet coming down after I leaped. It was a great shot.”
It was the greatest shot of Lewis’ young golfing life as it would set up her dreamy birdie-birdie finish and second major championship title.
“The 5-iron is the best shot of my career,” Lewis told GolfChannel.com. “That shot and the putt on 17 at Kraft are my two most memorable. The putt was probably more important, just because of it being my first win, and what it has now led to. The 5-iron shot will be a shot I will remember for the rest of my career.”
The putt Lewis is referring to was the big bending 20-foot birdie at the 71st hole of the Kraft Nabisco Championship three years ago, when she chased down Yani Tseng to make her first LPGA title a major. Her 5-iron at St. Andrews last summer helped her chase down Na Yeon Choi and join Lorena Ochoa as the only players to win the Women’s British Open at St. Andrews.
“The best part of winning at St Andrews was becoming a part of their history,” Lewis said.
Lewis, the Rolex world No. 1, will tee it up at Royal Birkdale this week looking to win her fourth title of the year. Michelle Wie, who has become a friend to Lewis, says there’s a fire driving Lewis every time she tees it up.
“I think she's really motivated,” Wie said. “When I see Stacy, even if she finished fourth, she's still really motivated. She's pissed off that she was fourth place, and I really admire that. Her work ethic is just unbelievable. It definitely inspires me to work harder, every time I see her in the gym, every time I see her on the golf course.”
Lewis used that fire to win the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2013.
Three shots down to Choi with six holes to go, Lewis kept pressing. She made her big move at the Road Hole, where she was two shots down standing on the 17th tee box. That’s where she striped a tough drive into the fairway, 189 yards from the hole. The wind there was blowing briskly from right to left, and there was a delay waiting for the green to clear, giving her plenty of time to talk over the shot with her caddie, Travis Wilson.
“I’m not really sure what I was thinking before, we were both pretty relaxed,” Lewis said. “We just talked about the shot like we normally do, but the number was perfect for the shot type that it required. I have this shot, I call my flat shot, where I’m trying to swing shorter and flatter, so the ball comes off lower, and with less spin. And when we talked through the yardage and how we needed the ball to react, I told Travis it’s the flat 5 and he said `That’s perfect.’”
The swing was perfect, with her shot landing just at the front of the green and bounding to 3 feet. With Choi making bogey behind her, a two-shot swing rode on Lewis making the birdie putt.
“At the time I wasn’t thinking about winning the tournament, I just was trying to post a number, because I knew I needed some help from the girls behind me,” Lewis said. “The hardest part of that shot is the small area you have in front of that green to run it up. There’s just such a small margin for error. I picked a shot that if I hit good, it would get up on front of the green somewhere, and if I missed it, I would have a chip from short of the green. But, I honestly felt very relaxed over the shot. I was more nervous over the putt. The putt had a ton of break, and I didn’t want to miss it after hitting such a great shot in.”
Lewis played the rest of the year with that 5-iron, a Mizuno JPX 825 Pro, but it is retired today, stored away at her South Florida home with all the putters she keeps from her victories.
“I will end up getting rid of the rest of the set of irons, eventually, but the 5-iron will be something I will keep for the rest of my life,” Lewis said. “That club is important to me because it allowed me to become a part of history. I did something that only one other female golfer has done at the home of golf. Anyone that knows me knows that I love the history of the game and have so much respect for all those that paved the way for me to play, and now it’s really cool to think that I am a part of that history and paving the way for future generations.”