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Published: Saturday, 7/20/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Flustered Lewis looks to putter for answers

BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Stacy Lewis doesn't like her tee shot on 17. Stacy Lewis doesn't like her tee shot on 17.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Stacy Lewis insists she feels the same heat as the face of the Marathon Classic as she does at events in, say, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“I think any week I put pressure on myself,” she said.

The history of human nature — and her resume at Highland Meadows — suggests Lewis may be twisting the truth.

While the reigning LPGA player of the year is widely regarded as the tour’s top U.S. player, the Toledo-born’s star form continues to elude her at Highland Meadows.

Lewis has not cracked the top 10 in six events here, and on Friday she narrowly made the cut with a 1-over 72 that dropped her to even par heading into the weekend — eight shots behind leaders Paula Creamer, Alison Walshe, and Beatriz Recari.

She swung from one extreme to another, energized by five birdies but undermined by a scattershot putter and five bogeys — including a double on the par-4 ninth hole. Lewis, who leads the tour with nine top-10 finishes and is the top-ranked American, finished in a 12-way tie for 40th place.

“It was a little frustrating,” she said. “I made a bunch of birdies but made a bunch of mistakes. I don’t know, there were some good things out of it. I’m definitely frustrated, but at least I’m playing tomorrow.”

Though she believes her struggles to contend here have nothing to do with the strain of expectation, this is not just another tournament.

No, this is her week.

It is in part because of Lewis that Marathon Petroleum — one of her top sponsors — secured the tournament’s future by becoming a title sponsor, and no week bestows her more adoration.

As usual this week, a mob of family and friends wearing “Lew Crew” shirts have followed her every move. Many are staying with Lewis and her parents, who came up from Texas, in a big rented house.

Lewis has handled it all — the sponsor dinners, the meet-and-greets, the interviews — with aplomb. Afterward, she smiled through a round of interviews and slowly navigated a tunnel of fans, signing everything from the top of a bobblehead doll bearing her likeness to golf balls.

For as far as she has come on the course, becoming the first American to capture the tour’s top honors in 18 years last season, LPGA commissioner Mike Whan is just as impressed with Lewis’ efforts to expand her brand.

“It’s almost overwhelming to think how much Stacy has gone from being a shy, quiet, internally competitive player that was easy to not pay attention to, because that’s the way she liked it, to ... reaching out to being one of the faces of the tour,” Whan said.

Lewis said she has enjoyed the scene this week. Then, there is the golf. Asked about her inconsistency at Highland Meadows, she pointed to her putter. Lewis needed 60 putts to get through the first two rounds.

“These greens are tricky, and I just haven’t putted these greens well over the years,” she said. “You’d think after playing them a bunch, you’d learn them a little better. I’ve been driving it straighter and been giving myself chances, but I just haven’t made the putts.”

Still, Lewis believes her fortune here will change today. If she plays like this is just another tournament, there’s a good chance it will.

“I feel like any week I can go out there and win,” Lewis said. “So when I’m not up there on the leaderboard, it frustrates me. It’s great to have the family and friends here, but it doesn’t really change that mentality.”

Contact David Briggs at:

dbriggs@theblade.com,

419-724-6084, or on

Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.



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