Any momentum Stacy Lewis gained from a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole Saturday was later erased by a rules infraction. Lewis was penalized two strokes under Rule 13-4 after her caddie, Travis Wilson, tested the surface of a fairway bunker on the 16th hole with his feet.
“More than anything, I just feel bad for him because he feels awful,” Lewis said. “But he’s the best caddie out here, so we’ll be fine. We still have a chance to win tomorrow.”
Lewis now trails Ai Miyazato by four strokes heading into the final round of the LPGA Founders Cup, where birdies drop with regularity. Miyazato leads the race at 19-under-par 197.
“In my mind I shot a bogey-free 66 today,” Lewis said. “And that’s what I’m going to take home tonight.”
For Miyazato, it was welcome cushion against one of the hottest players on tour. Lewis, 28, has a lot on the line this week. A victory on Sunday would give her the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings, unseating Yani Tseng for the first time in 110 weeks.
The real drama on Saturday came after Lewis stepped into the scoring tent and learned of a possible infraction, brought to the LPGA’s attention by a Golf Channel viewer. Lewis and her caddie headed to the trailer to watch the footage on TV. Lewis said she didn’t see Wilson do anything with his feet while they were playing, but when the video was slowed down and zoomed in on his foot, she could see his foot turn in the sand and hear the grains crunch under the weight. The action in question occurred directly after Lewis asked Wilson about the firmness of the sand.
“It’s a ruling on intent,” Lewis said. “Our whole purpose of that shot was to find out how much sand was in the bunker. That’s the unfortunate part.”
Wilson was named Caddie of the Year two weeks ago in Singapore, two days before Lewis won the tournament. He’s a veteran caddie of 21 years and the only caddie Lewis has had since she joined the LPGA.
So why was Wilson in the bunker?
“I think he was just walking over to look at the lie,” Lewis said.
It was a teachable moment for Lewis, who handled the situation with class. She’ll have her hands full on Sunday with Miyazato, who didn’t miss a shot on Saturday at Wildfire — hitting 17 greens — and felt no need to practice after her round.
“There’s so many birdie opportunities out there, and if you take it, it feels great,” said Miyazato. “So I love it.”
Miyazato’s graceful game stands in stark contrast to so many on the tour. Earlier in her career, she struggled being 50 yards behind most of the field. She felt it wasn’t fair, and worked to change her swing. With that gorgeous tempo gone, she lost her game and her confidence.
“It wasn’t a really good feeling and I thought my career was finished,” she said.
Now she knows herself well, and most importantly, knows she can putt. On Sunday, she’ll vie for her 10th career victory.
Tomorrow’s desert showdown will essentially come down to a putting contest. Lewis, who shot 68-65-68 the first three days, said her low round is still out there.
“Tomorrow is a big day for me,” Lewis said. “Travis and I are going to go have fun out there, and we’ll be pretty motivated.”
As a calm Lewis wrapped up her interview with the press, she stepped down from the stage and walked across a silent room.
“It’s too quiet in here,” she said to no one in particular. “It’s not that sad, c’mon.”