Out of the way, folks.
Stacy Lewis is playing through, and she’s playing quickly.
She blew through all the Americans in front of her in the Rolex World Rankings in 2012, and now she has her eye on overtaking Yani Tseng as the top-ranked woman in the world in 2013.
How far and how quickly has Lewis come?
At the start of the 2011 season, she was No. 37 in the Rolex World Rankings. She was just the eighth-highest ranked American behind Cristie Kerr, Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lincicome and Kristy McPherson. She blew by all of them in soaring as high as No. 2 in the world this season.
Lewis’ ascendance was the story of the year for the LPGA in 2012. She rode a tour-best four victories in becoming the first American to win Rolex Player of the Year since Beth Daniel in 1994.
With Americans appearing to lose ground on the world stage in women’s golf over the last 15 years, Lewis broke through to lead a resurgence. Her four titles helped Americans claim eight LPGA titles in 2012, equaling the South Koreans as the most by any nation this year.
“I wanted to do it for the tour,” Lewis said. “I wanted to do it for all the other American girls, just for everybody, to get that pressure off. It’s a ton of pressure. You’ve got the expectations of yourself and your country and your other players.”
Though Lewis won her first major at the Kraft Nabisco in the spring of 2011 and ended the year ranked No. 10 in the world, she found motivation opening this season with hardly anyone talking about her as a favorite in the game’s biggest events.
“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 got her winning start in 2012 at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic in late April, and then she won her very next stroke-play start, claiming the Shoprite Classic. Lewis won in Alabama again in September at the Navistar Classic and also won the Mizuno Classic in Japan in November.
A perusal of the season-long stats shows just why Lewis climbed to the top of so many leaderboards. She was first on tour in birdies, third in scoring average, third in greens in regulation and third in putts per greens in regulation.
Lewis thinks she can get better with a focus on overtaking Tseng to become the No. 1 player in the world next year.
“That’s one of the things I am going to pay attention to going into next year,” Lewis said. “That’s been one of the goals this year, to chip away at her lead and narrow that gap. That’s the next goal for me, to be No. 1 in the world, but you have to win tournaments, you have to be in contention. Being No. 1 is the result of a lot of hard work, and I just have to keep working hard.”
Lewis is 2.63 average rankings points behind Tseng in the Rolex World Rankings. Eight months ago, Lewis was a whopping 12.15 average points behind. Lewis, now No. 3 behind Tseng and Na Yeon Choi, still has some work to do. With a victory against a strong field typically worth .7 points, Lewis couldn’t give herself a chance at No. 1 until a month or so into next season.
Long, arduous journeys are nothing new for Lewis, who overcame scoliosis to become the best American woman in the game today. She had a rod and five screws attached to her spine before she headed off to the University of Arkansas. She redshirted her freshman year to recover from that surgery but she would end up winning the NCAA Division I championship before graduating.
“I remember sitting in my doctor's office before the surgery and thinking 'Why me? Why is this all happening to me?’” Lewis said in her Rolex Player of the Year acceptance speech. “That is something I've asked a lot in my life, in the good and the bad, and I still don't know the answer to that. I don't know why I have been through all I have been through, but I do know that everything that happens to you happens for a reason. And all the adversity I have gone through is the reason I am up here tonight and that I would not be here without the help of a lot of people.”
All the adversity overcome made Lewis one of GolfChannel.com’s top 10 newsmakers in 2012.
Newsmaker of the Year schedule
No. 10: Stacy Lewis
No. 9: Dec. 12
No. 8: Dec. 14
No. 7: Dec. 16
No. 6: Dec. 19
No. 5: Dec. 21
No. 4: Dec. 23
No. 3: Dec. 26
No. 2: Dec. 28
No. 1: Dec. 31