Lewis remains positive after year full of close calls

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So what do you do if you’re Stacy Lewis after all these close calls this season? 

While Lewis hasn’t won yet this year, she has racked up six second-place finishes and three third-place finishes. 

She will tee it up at the Toto Japan Classic Friday knowing she’s playing some good golf, with two of those second-place finishes on this fall Asian swing, but with some frustration coming up short in bids for that first win of 2015.

So if you are Lewis, do you focus on what you’re doing right in giving yourself so many chances? Or do you focus on what’s going wrong in failing to take home the ultimate prize? Yes, you can do both, but it’s human nature to lean harder one way than the other.

“I look at it as I’m playing a lot of good golf,” said Lewis, 30, an 11-time LPGA winner. “You can’t necessarily look at it as a bad thing, because you’re obviously doing a lot of things right. You just have to keep working on things and do better the next week.”

Lewis tees it up as the favorite in Japan. At No. 3 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, she’s the highest-ranked player in the field. She’s also a past champion at Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club. She won there in 2012 when she clinched the first of her two Rolex Player of the Year awards.

There aren’t many players more analytical than Lewis, and she took a hard look at her stats after finishing second to Sei Young Kim at the Blue Bay LPGA in China last week, Lewis’ eighth second-place finish since she last won at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship 16 months ago.

“I realized my scoring average, the ball striking, the putting numbers, they’re really close to what they have been the last few years,” Lewis said. “What I’m doing isn’t really that much different. I don’t look at it like I’m doing a whole lot wrong. You just need things to go your way at the end, and I haven’t quite got there.” 

Last year, Lewis swept the LPGA’s important season-long awards. She won the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and the money-winning title.

“To win those big awards, you have to win tournaments,” Lewis said. “You take two of my seconds this year and turn them into wins, and I’m in a completely different boat. That’s just how fine a line there is out here.”

Lewis’ stats are lagging behind her stellar season a year ago, but only slightly.

“What she did last year, that’s not going to happen two years in a row very often,” said Joe Hallet, Lewis’ swing coach. “She’ll tell you she knows she hasn’t won this year, but she feels good about the way she’s been putting herself in position.”

Lewis is third on tour this year with a 69.83 scoring average. She led the tour with a 69.53 average last year. Her scoring average this year is actually better than it was when she was Player of the Year in ’12. 

Lewis seventh on tour in hitting greens in regulation this year at 73.6 percent. She was fifth last year at 75.8 percent. 

She’s first in putting per greens in regulation at 1.74 putts per GIR. She was second last year at 1.75.

The only real notable difference in Lewis’ stats from last year? She’s down to 86th in driving distance at 246.5 yards per drive. She was 15th last year at 258.8 yards per drive.

Hallet says that power differential is coming from a combination of factors, nothing Lewis is overly concerned about.

Equipment’s part of it, and slight tweaks in her swing may have been part of it. She played the 2009 version of the Titleist ProV1x ever since it came out, but Titleist took that ball off the conforming list before the start of this year. It was a big deal in Lewis’ iron play and short game, too, with different spin rates affecting release. She has been trying different versions of the Bridgestone 330 through the year and believes she’s got the right ball for her game now. There were driver-ball combination issues at year’s start, and there were more 3-woods off tees.

“I’m just trying to focus on playing good golf right now,” Lewis said.

She believes the victories will come if she keeps playing good golf and keeps putting herself in position.