GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — Stacy Lewis is back on top.
And this time, she’s ready to stay there for a while.
Lewis won the ShopRite LPGA Classic on Sunday to take the top spot in the world ranking from Inbee Park, finishing with a 4-under 67 for a six-stroke victory.
No. 1 for four weeks early last year, Lewis ended Park’s 59-week run in the top spot.
“It feels great,” Lewis said. “I feel like I’ve played a lot of good, consistent golf over the last year and I felt like I deserve to be here. I didn’t feel like I stumbled into it.”
Lewis finished at 16-under 197 on the Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club and earned $225,000 for her second victory of the year and 10th overall. Also the 2012 winner at Seaview, she won the North Texas LPGA Shootout last month after finishing second six times in her previous 16 events since winning the Women’s British Open in August.
She joins Sorenstam (1998, 2002, 2005), Juli Inkster (1986, 1988) and Betsy King (1987, 1995, 2001) as the only multiple winners in the tournament.
“That’s a pretty good list of people there,” Lewis said. “That’s not too bad. Wow, that’s really cool.”
Christina Kim was second after a 72, marking her best finish since 2010.
Park closed with a 70 to tie for eighth at 7 under. She’s winless in 10 tour starts this season after sweeping the first three majors last year and finishing the season with six victories.
“It is a little bit relief not to have the big heavy crown on my head,” Park said. “It’s not the end of the world.”
Lewis finished a stroke off the tournament scoring record set by Annika Sorenstam in 1998 and 2005. The 29-year-old Texan opened with a 67 and had a 63 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead over Kim into the final round.
On Sunday, she was hardly threatened, using birdies on the third and fourth holes to open up a two-stroke lead before picking up two more consecutive birdies to open the back nine – holing a 25-foot putt on No. 10 and a 15-footer on No. 11.
Despite her first bogey in 42 holes at No. 12 and then missing two short putts on No. 17 for another bogey, Lewis had built up enough of a cushion to cruise home with the largest margin of victory in the tournament’s 26-year history.
“I don’t know what it is about this place,” Lewis said. “It’s just really special to me. I’ve played some really good golf here, and it’s just mind-boggling to think I have 10 wins.”
Jennifer Johnson (72), Haeji Kang (69), Anna Nordqvist (70) and Gerina Piller (70) tied for third at 9 under.
Johnson opened with a course-record 62 and followed with 70 for a spot in Sunday’s final pairing with Lewis and Kim. But the 22-year-old Californian had a double bogey and two bogeys on the back nine to fall out of contention.
Kim had a run of three straight birdies on No. 9-11, but shot 3 over on the final seven holes, including a double bogey on 18.
“I hadn’t been in contention in a while so I kind of forgot what it was like having nerves,” Kim said. “And it kind of showed on the last hole.”
Lewis smiled and pumped her fist to the crowd as she walked down the fairway at 18, relishing her new place atop the world ranking.
Her brief stay as No. 1 last year was a rocky one, with Lewis admitting that she had trouble dealing with the extra obligations that came with the top spot.
“With a good team of people around me,” Lewis believes she’s more prepared to handle those duties and be the face of the LPGA Tour.
“The last time it was taken away from me in an off-week when we weren’t even playing, so I’m definitely just not going to take it for granted and really enjoy it this time. Now I know all the extra things that come along with it. But I’m ready for it this time.”
Karrie Webb, last year’s champion, tied for eighth after a 67. Third-ranked Lydia Ko bounced back from a second-round 75 to shoot 69 and finish at 1 under.