U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Lewis Seeks Women’s Open Win to Douse Dry Spell July 9, 2015 | Lancaster, Pa. By Stuart Hall

It has been 27 starts since Stacy Lewis' last win, but the U.S. Women's Open could be the perfect place to snap that streak. (USGA/Hunter Martin)

Glass half-full or half-empty?

In essence, that was the question posed to Stacy Lewis regarding a 2015 season in which she has eight top-10 finishes, including five top-five finishes, without a victory. 

"Yeah, it wears on you a little bit,” said Lewis on the eve of the 70th U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club. "But I want to be in contention, I want to give myself chances to win, and in doing that you're not going to win every time. That's just the way the cards fall.

“You're going to have somebody make eagle on you and do something like that. It's just kind of the way I play. I would rather be in contention, have top fives, than miss cuts."

Not that the world’s third-ranked Lewis routinely misses cuts. She has missed only one a year dating to 2013.

But draw the lens beyond 2015 and a more vexing scenario is revealed.

Each of the previous three seasons Lewis, 30, has won at least three tournaments. But since winning last year’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, the former University of Arkansas Razorback has gone dry in the win column. 

Twenty-seven starts and zero wins. Thirteen top-10 finishes, seven inside the top five and five of those as runner-up, including in April’s ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major.  

Contending? Yes. Winning? No. 

Lewis’ dry spell is not worthy of being called a slump, though the accumulation of near misses can begin to add layers of frustration, as top-ranked Inbee Park can attest. Park made this championship her first win in 2008, then went slightly more than four years without a second win.

Lewis Talks Women's Open Prep

That would be considered a scorching drought.

“I guess I did [press] a little bit, because I really wanted to win,” Park said. "Everyone wants to win, so when it looks like it’s going to come to you and it doesn’t, then you get a little bit anxious."

Park persevered to become one of the game’s dominant players, especially in majors. The 26-year-old Korean has won five of the last 12 majors.

“I’ve had those times when I didn’t have a win for a while and once you kind of break through then you keep winning from there,” Park said. "I think she’s probably been a bit unlucky. She’s obviously had a lot of opportunities to win, but just hasn’t. The moment is going to come. Stacy is going to win tournaments, for sure."

For Lewis, a two-time major winner who lacks a U.S. Women’s Open among her 11 career wins, this week would be as good as any to resume winning. This championship, though, has not been particularly kind to the Texan.

Between a third-place finish weeks after turning professional in 2008 and going 5-0-0 for the winning USA side in the Curtis Cup Match, and last year’s runner-up finish, Lewis finished 48th, 14th, 34th, 46th and 42nd. Her overall scoring average in eight appearances is 73.47.

At Pinehurst No. 2 last year, then-No. 1 Lewis held the first-round lead after a 67, but unraveled with rounds of 73 and 74. On the final nine that Sunday, Lewis charged to within a stroke of eventual champion Michelle Wie before signing for a 4-under 66 and finishing two shots shy of Wie.

But this is a new week, a new opportunity on a course that is in stark contrast to the Donald Ross design of a year ago. This 1920 William Flynn design has been softened and lengthened by early-week rains. The yardage of 6,483 is deceptive considering the numerous uphill approach shots, and the small- to medium-sized greens offer plenty of slope to navigate.

“I think off the tee and especially into some of the greens, you've got to be able to hit shots, hit some fades, hit some draws,” Lewis said. “I think it's going to favor more of a left-to-right shot overall, so I think that sets up for my game really well.

“And then putting, you know, at any U.S. Open you have to putt well. You have to make some 4- and 5-footers. And they're going to have a ton of break to them, but you've got to make them.”

Therein lies Lewis’ biggest obstacle this week, and yet there are promising signs. She is currently fourth on tour in putts per round, averaging nearly one less putt per round than in 2012, when she ranked 30th.

“Putting well wins any golf tournament, let alone a major,” said Lewis, who has not ranked better than 30th in putting average in her last six U.S. Women’s Open.

Lewis is pleased with the current state of her game, a claim she admittedly could not make a month ago. Specifically, Lewis has been working to get the club in a better position at the top of her swing.

That adjustment has freed Lewis to focus more on the grueling on-course demands of this championship week.

“I think this golf course is going to test everything,” she said. “I think the big thing is getting in the fairway. The fairways are pretty generous, but you still have to get it in the fairway. With a wet golf course, if you're hitting out of the rough, it's going to make it harder because you can't run anything up. Hitting the fairways and then putting well.”

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites.

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