Lewis’ first title a major
RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIF. Stacy Lewis held off defending champion Yani Tseng to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship by three strokes Sunday, earning her first LPGA Tour title in the year’s first major.
Lewis shot a 3-under 69 to finish at 13-under 275, rallying from an early two-stroke deficit while going head-to-head with the world’s top-ranked player.
She punctuated a tenacious back nine in gusty wind at Mission Hills with an improbable 20-foot par putt from the fringe on the 17th hole, prompting a celebration in the raucous gallery.
Tseng shot a 74 with four bogeys, losing focus in her quest for her fifth worldwide title already this year. Lewis bogeyed the 15th hole to allow Tseng to pull within one stroke, but Tseng bogeyed the next two holes.
“I can’t even believe it,” said Lewis, who overcame scoliosis to become an elite golfer. “I’ve felt like I’m going to throw up all day. It’s awesome. ... I just couldn’t believe I made it (on the 17th hole). I thought I had a good shot from there, but I just tried to stay calm.”
Lewis’ putt on the 17th broke abruptly to the left and dropped straight home, with Lewis raising her fist in celebration. The 26-year-old from Texas with her alma mater’s Arkansas Razorbacks head cover on her driver then stood staring at the green, hands on her knees in exhaustion, while Tseng missed an 18-foot par putt that essentially clinched it.
After sinking her final 3-foot putt on the 18th, Lewis raised her arms in disbelief before hugging Tseng and her caddie, and several players quickly doused her with beer in the LPGA tradition for a first-time winner.
Lewis and her family then took the Kraft Nabisco’s traditional winner’s leap into Poppie’s Pond, holding hands while running to the water, where Lewis and her caddie did modified cannonballs.
Morgan Pressel, Katie Futcher and Angela Stanford finished nine strokes behind Lewis in a third-place tie.
At Humble, Texas, Phil Mickelson outdueled Scott Verplank on Sunday to win the Houston Open, his first victory since last year’s Masters.
The win moved Mickelson’s world ranking to No. 3, while Tiger Woods dropped to No. 7. It’s the first time Mickelson has been ahead of Woods in the rankings since the week before Woods won the 1997 Masters for his first major championship.
Mickelson shot a 65 in the final round to finish 20-under par, three ahead of Verplank (68) and second-round leader Chris Kirk (67).
Lefty is hoping he can repeat some history at Augusta this week. He’s the last player to win the week prior to a Masters victory, capturing the BellSouth Classic in 2006 before earning his second green jacket. The Houston Open became the run-up event to Augusta in 2007.
With his sore left wrist tightly wrapped, the 46-year-old Verplank was trying to become the oldest winner on tour since Rocco Mediate won the Frys.com Open last October at 47.
Mickelson earned his 39th victory, tying Tom Watson and Cary Middlecoff for ninth on the career list.
Edgerton native Steve Stricker shot a 69 and, at 13-under, tied for third.
At Saucier, Miss., Tom Lehman won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic for his second Champions Tour victory of the season, closing with a
3-under 69 for a four-stroke victory.
Lehman, the Allianz Championship winner in February, finished at 16-under 200 at Fallen Oak. He opened with a 67 and shot a course-record 64 on Friday.
Nick Price (67), David Frost (69) and Jeff Sluman (72) tied for second.