Stacy Lewis, winless since 2014, tied for Volvik lead
Ann Arbor — Stacy Lewis closed her round on Thursday with familiar pump of the fist as her birdie putt rolled in on No. 18.
The final stroke helped Lewis shoot a 7-under 65 to take the first-round lead at the Volvik Championship and could be the spark that gets the former No. 1 player in the world back to the winner’s circle, a place she hasn’t been since 2014.
Whether Lewis is on top by Sunday afternoon remains to be seen, but getting out in front was definitely on her mind.
“You know, I looked up at the leaderboard and saw I was tied for the lead, so I kind of just wanted to get out there ahead,” Lewis said as she closed her first competitive round at Travis Pointe Country Club. “It’s always nice to see yourself atop the leaderboard. Really, I just wanted to make the putt more than anything.”
Lewis shared the first-round lead with Wei-Ling Hsu, who was 6-under through her first six holes. Hsu had a pair of eagles on her first nine as well, holing out from the fairway on No. 10 — her first hole of the day — and adding an eagle at the par-5 14th.
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After giving back a shot with a bogey at No. 3, she birdied Nos. 6 and 7 to pull even with Lewis.
“I think I got 155 and a little downwind,” Hsu said of No. 10. “I had my 7-iron and I just hit it right at the pin. And I don’t see very well, which I just hear my mom and gallery on the side, they all just so cheering and so noisy or something. And then my caddie just told me, ‘You got eagle.’ I was like, ‘Oh, great start.’ ”
While Hsu got off to the quick start, it was Lewis who overcome some struggles in the middle of the round and turned it on late to overtake the rest of the field. She opened with birdies on three of her first four holes before a bogey on No. 9 and a missed birdie putt on No. 10 left her at 2-under.
But birdies on Nos. 11 and 13 had things going back in the right direction and when Lewis rolled in a 25-foot putt for eagle on No. 14, she was tied for the lead.
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“I think the hardest part about that hole was hitting the fairway,” Lewis said of the 462-yard 14th. “Hit a great drive and absolutely smoked a 4-iron to the back edge. I was fortunate to make the putt. I was playing well but hadn’t really made a ton of putts. Just kind of really solidified the day more than anything.”
While it’s been nearly three years since Lewis has won, it’s not like she hasn’t been in the hunt. Last year, Lewis had eight top-10 finishes coming off a 2015 season when she finished in the top 10 12 times, including runner-up six times.
Add three top-10s this year and Lewis, who has two majors to her credit and has spent 25 total weeks as the top-rated golfer in the world, is close. She spent time while taking last week off working on being more confident in her choices on the course.
On Thursday, that paid off.
“I did a really good job today being decisive and being confident in my decisions,” Lewis said. “So that’s something I’m going to look forward to tomorrow and this weekend, just being more confident.”
Tour rookie Nelly Korda was one shot back at 6-under after she did her share of scrambling with just eight fairways hit. However, she avoided any blemishes on the scorecard as she had six birdies, including four on the back nine to finish with 66.
Her par on 18 turned out to be a solid finish after her tee shot ended up under a tree, but it was the story of her round.
“Definitely 18 was a great par,” Korda said. “And then beginning of my round it was a slow start and I saved a couple of long par putts, like on 2 and 4. So just getting those, making those two pars and just getting my round rolling really helped.”
Brittany Lincicome birdied two of her final three holes to lead a group of five players that shot 5-under 67. She was joined two shots off the lead by Ilhee Lee, Sung Hyun Park, Sarah Jane Smith and Suzann Pettersen, who shot 31 on the front nine, her final nine holes of the day.
“I made a couple of birdies out there,” Pettersen said. “Played really good on the front side, which was my back side. If you’re in the middle of the fairway, the greens are quite receptive with all the rain, so it’s kind of throwing darts, but hit some good putts and stayed patient.”
Twelve players were at 4-under while Paula Creamer shot 3-under 69. Defending champions Ariya Jutanugarn shot an even-par 72.