U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Lewis Seeks Breakthrough at CordeValle July 7, 2016 | SAN MARTIN, CALIF. By Tom Mackin

Stacy Lewis, one of the most dominant figures in American golf, would like nothing more than to hoist the U.S. Women's Open trophy. (USGA/JD Cuban)

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At the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open, her first as a professional, then 23-year-old Stacy Lewis had a one-shot lead entering the final round at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn. But when the round began, her nerves took over.

“I didn't know what the heck I was doing there leading the U.S. Open,” Lewis said. “I think it was the third or fourth hole (on Sunday) when I hit a bad wedge shot and made a double bogey. It kind of sent me in a downward spiral (resulting in a 78 and a third-place finish). I learned that at a U.S. Open, you can't let that happen. If you hit a bad shot, you have to move on. I let that one swing kind of stay with me all day.”

Consider it a well-learned lesson. Since then Lewis has been named Rolex Player of the Year twice, and won 11 times, including two majors: the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship and the 2013 Women’s British Open. While proud of both, neither was the major she wants to win the most. That would be the U.S. Women’s Open, a championship she has come tantalizingly close to winning in each of the past two years.

In 2014 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, despite birdies on the final two holes, she finished second, two strokes behind winner Michelle Wie. Playing with Amy Yang in the final group last year at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club, Lewis was tied for the lead with four holes to play before a double bogey on the 15th hole led to a third-place finish.

In fact, the 31-year-old’s last win came in June 2014, a stretch of 54 tournaments that includes just one missed cut and 11 runner-up finishes. She sees the latter figure as a good thing, though. “I think there would be a lot of people that would like to have that record. To win tournaments and to be in contention, you have to be willing to finish second or third and accept it. Because that's the only way you're going to win.”

Lewis almost did that last week at the Cambia Portland Classic. Although she came in second, four strokes behind Brooke Henderson, she left the Pacific Northwest happy with the state of her game. “I feel good. I think the greens were actually faster in Portland than they are here (at CordeValle) this week. So it was definitely a good warm-up to get ready for this week.”

Her latest attempt to get back in the win column starts at 8:39 a.m. from No. 1 Thursday and at 2:14 p.m. from the 10th hole on Friday in a grouping with defending U.S. Women’s Open champion In Gee Chun and 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Hannah O’Sullivan.

Lewis sees CordeValle as very different from typical U.S. Women’s Open sites. “Of the past few venues we've played, it is probably closest to a Sebonack,” she said, referring to the Southampton, N.Y., course that hosted the championship in 2013. “You have to do everything well here. You can't just drive and putt well. You've got to be able to hit some shots and get some good bounces along the way. It's almost more linksy than a (typical) U.S. Women’s Open venue.”

Conditions will play a key role in the way Lewis attacks the layout. “The greens and the fairways were really pretty soft and a little bit inconsistent in parts,” she said, referring to her practice rounds. “So it really depends what they (the USGA) do with it. If they don't water like they have been doing the last few days, this course gets real hard really fast and it will be tough to hold the greens.”

Even if her winless streak in the U.S Women’s Open continues, Lewis has another event coming up next month that she deems of equal importance – the Olympic women’s golf competition in Brazil, the first time golf has been contested in the Games in more than 100 years. Currently ranked No. 8 in the world, she is virtually assured of a spot on the USA team.

“The opportunity to play in the Olympics and represent your country is probably worth as much as winning a U.S. Open, a Kraft or any of those big majors,” she said. “Winning a gold medal would be up there with winning a major championship to me.”

Arizona resident Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA websites. Email him at temackinjr@gmail.com

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