Stacy Lewis rallied to win the Mizuno Classic for her LPGA Tour-leading fourth title of the year, birdieing the final three holes for an 8-under-par 64 and a one-stroke victory.
Lewis, seven strokes behind South Korea’s Lee Bo-mee entering the round, had 10 birdies and two bogeys to finish at 11-under 205 at Kintetsu Kashikojima.
”I don’t think I’ve ever come back from this far,” Lewis said. ”I didn’t think the low numbers were out there until someone shot an 8 under yesterday. I just went out there today trying to make birdies and got 10 of them, which is pretty good.”
Lee shot a 72 to finish second.
”I’m disappointed with today’s round,” said Lee, a regular on the Japan LPGA. ”I didn’t give myself enough chances for birdies.
”There was a lot of tension today. I had lots of worries like if I won whether I would join the LPGA or not. So I think that made me a little nervous.”
Lewis made a 25-foot birdie putt on 16 and then moved into a tie for the lead with a 12-footer on the par-3 17th. She took sole possession of the lead with another 25-foot birdie putt on the last hole then claimed the $180,000 winner’s prize when Lee’s long birdie putt on 18 went long.
”I felt it was coming yesterday,” Lewis said. ”I played really solid yesterday. I just didn’t make any putts. But to makes those three putts I made coming down the stretch was unbelievable.
"I didn’t really think I was playing this well coming into the week, but I just started playing better and better every day. Putts just started falling today, and it was meant to be. ”
Lewis also won the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic in April, the ShopRite LPGA Classic in June and the Navistar LPGA Classic in September. She has five career victories, having won the Kraft Nabisco Championship last year.
Trying to become the first American to win the player of the year award since Beth Daniel in 1994, Lewis moved 58 points ahead of South Korea’s Inbee Park in the player of the year standings with two events left. Each victory is worth 30 points.
Lewis, who trails Park on the money list, said player of the year is more important to her.
”The money list for me is pretty much out of reach with two tournaments left,” Lewis said. ”My goal for this year is player of the year, which forces Inbee to win the last two tournaments, so to have that pretty much locked up is pretty cool.”
Park, who opened the LPGA Tour’s Asian swing with a victory in Malaysia and finished second last week in Taiwan, shot a 70 to tie for 17th.
Lewis received a pearl-studded tiara and a strand of Japan’s finest pearls.
”I haven’t decided who I’m going to give them too yet,” Lewis said. ”I think my mom would love them thought.”
Japan’s Ayako Uehara shot a 67 to finish two strokes back, and top-ranked Yani Tseng had a 68 to finish fourth at 7 under.