Navistar LPGA Classic: Alabama Slammin’
By Vince Robitaille
GolfWRX Staff Writer
When one discusses Bobby Jones and sweeps, it’s usually in reference to the Georgian’s 1930 Grand Slam. But Stacey Lewis successfully added herself to the potential subjects when such a conversation comes up last weekend. The American forerunner, with her third win of the season, made it three in a row on Alabama’s soil and three in a row on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
In a tournament that seemingly had Lexi Thompson written all over it coming out of Thursday’s round – Puma’s flag bearer shooting the lights out by way of 9-under 63 on a course that she has made her own in recent memory – Lewis simply wasn’t going to roll over and let an opportunity to slip by, not only vault above Inbee Park in the Rolex World Rankings, but complete the proverbial Alabama Slam. With Thompson, the defending champion, widening her lead to four strokes on Day 2, however, Lewis needed to make something happen quickly, to push every edge she could find… and so she did.
The fun thing with applying pressure in golf is that, while the course won’t ever falter – it might let you have one for the day, but assuming that it’ll fold in the long run is simply ludicrous – your opponents just might. One couldn’t overlook this potential consequence on Saturday in Prattville; Thompson seemingly collapsing – her 2-over tally fairing quite disastrously in comparison to the field’s upper portion – under her Solheim Cup teammate’s assault. Moreover, the Rolex Player of the Year leader wasn’t the only member of last year’s unit that ventured deep in Ireland happening to make a charge upon the leaderboard during the third loop, as Angela Stanford’s 68 had her comfortably sitting in 2nd place behind Lewis heading into the 55th hole.
Fortunately for the Texan and the Arkansan, being paired together didn’t yield the same dreadful results as their alternate shot partnership of a year ago; both golfers recording rounds in the red numbers this time, as Stanford finished in a quandary over third place. As for Lewis, her birdies around the turn created enough of a cushion to palliate any comeback attempt from her pursers and, specifically, from Lexi Thompson; the latter clawing herself back within a lone stroke of Lewis before a birdie on 16th from the former Razorback would effectively nail the defending champion’s coffin.
The victory on Capitol Hill’s Senator course carries huge implications for Steady Stacey as she gets ever closer to ending the Player of the Year drought for the Americans; the last recipient being Beth Daniel, 18 years ago. With Lewis’ top-10 finish efficiency, only a win by Inbee Park, Ai Miyazato or Jiyai Shin within the next month could shake things up atop the rankings. Until then, assume that The Stars and Stripes will be planted upon the LPGA Tour in December.