Jun 23

Lewis Returns to Arkansas

Lewis Was Local Star in Fayetteville

With all of the drama we’ve gone through in the past week over the perils of Chambers Bay, and the wizardry of double major winner, Jordan Spieth, it’s time to take a breath, a sigh of relief, and get back to the sanity of tour golf with the LPGA. Stacy Lewis would like nothing better. This week’s event, the Walmart  NW Arkansas Championship, is right in the heart of Stacy Lewis country, where she was a University of Arkansas star just twenty minutes away. She’s also won this event, and intends to win it again.

lewis 2 I had to wonder at first how the small town of Rogers, Arkansas, was going to host a tour event, but was surprised to find that the town of 56,000 is well-equipped with facilities, and boasts the exquisite Pinnacle Country Club, you know, like the name we see on the golf ball all the time. Rogers also boasts the Pinnacle Hills Promenade, a festive retail center that should keep fans happy between rounds. Despite its small population, Rogers is in proximity to several other communities that form a metropolitan area.  Lewis, however, who made the drive frequently from Fayetteville in the old days, won’t be doing much shopping. She’s never liked second or worse, and wants to reclaim the number one spot, this time from Lydia Ko.
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lewisIt may be of note that Lewis won the event last year in 2014, but before that, Yani Tseng won it twice, in 2010 and 2011. It wouldn’t be wise to chalk up Tseng as a contender of the past. She’s playing quite well lately, and one of these days, she’s going to reemerge. Perhaps it will be this week. It would be poetic justice, since it was Lewis who supplanted her as number one in the world, signaling Tseng’s historic slide into the also-rans. While Tseng has been playing well, Lewis has not disappeared, as some have thought.  Two months ago, she came within a hair’s breadth of winning the ANA Inspiration, until Brittany Lincicome dashed those thoughts in a sudden death playoff. Still, Lewis is still up there, and with a game that’s still in good shape.

Between the PGA’s U.S. Open, we’ve gone from one gorgeous piece of real estate to another, except in Arkansas, they put it on the course, not in a former rock quarry. The summer months can get up there in temperature in Arkansas, but what the players really need to watch for is excessive humidity. Sometimes, it’s so high in the southern summers that one feels the need for gills to get around. Where Washington state boasted the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean, Arkansas is inland. Wind should not be such a factor, and smoother greens should keep the players well-behaved. It’s not an avant-garde course like Chambers Bay, but a traditionalist’s dream.
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I’ve always wondered, however, why this fully sanctioned tournament on the LPGA tour has remained a 54 hole event.  Is it the climate, limited sponsorship, a scheduling problem? Regardless, it’s the kind of place that’s worth spending four days in if you can manage it. Lewis is game for that, I’m sure. It’s a milestone year for her, as she turns thirty, and she should look forward to an excellent decade, with a lot of weeks in contention, and a fair share of victories. Tseng can say the same, but the psychology will be a little different for her. Lewis never went anywhere, and Tseng went about as far from her former self as one could imagine. Such a rivalry would be fun to see, and it would be great for the LPGA to see it emerge again.
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