Stacy Lewis is the top American left in the Sybase Match Play Championship, and it’s really not a surprise.
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Lewis has been the best American on the LPGA Tour all season.
On Friday, Lewis won the first four holes and rolled to a 4-and-3 decision over Sandra Gal in the second round at Hamilton Farm Golf Club.
The tournament has become a minefield for the tour’s marque players. Defending champion Suzann Pettersen, No. 4 ranked Ai Miyazato and American stars Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome and Michelle Wie went down in the opening round.
Cristie Kerr, last year’s runner-up and the No. 5 ranked player, lost Friday along with No. 7 Jiyai Shin and No. 14 Karrie Webb. Eleven of the 20 seeded players in the 64-woman field have been eliminated.
”I don’t think Suzann losing really opens things up for me,” said Lewis, who was in Pettersen’s bracket. ”I think I’ve got a lot of tough matches still ahead of me, and there were a lot of upsets yesterday, so it just shows what match play is. Anything could happen on any given day.”
There’s still talent at the top.
Top-ranked Yani Tseng posted a 3-and-1 win over American Katie Futcher, and No. 2 ranked Na Yeon Choi was a 3-and-2 winner of fellow South Korean Jenny Shin.
The 27-year-old Lewis has more pressing problems. Her third-round opponent will be Sun Young Yoo, who won this event two years ago and the tour’s first major earlier this year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
”Sun Young’s having a great year,” Lewis said. ”She’s playing really well.”
So is Lewis. She has a win and four other top-10 finishes with earnings of $436,746, fourth best on tour.
Her sights are set on being the top American.
”That’s the reason I go out and play every day,” Lewis said. ”I think I’ve probably been playing as good, if not better, than a lot of the American players and I haven’t got noticed yet, and that’s what drives me every day to go out and get better and to keep playing and to keep winning matches. I think if you’re up on that leaderboard enough and you win enough golf tournaments, people will start to take notice.
”I haven’t been noticed, but it’s driving me every day.”
Lewis never gave Gal a chance. The former Arkansas star played 15 holes in 5-under par. She made birdies of 4, 10 and 30 feet on the first three holes and won the fourth when Gal bogeyed. The German moved within 2-down after 11 holes, but Lewis birdied the 13th and 14th to open daylight again.
Tseng, who has won three events this year, was down 1 after seven holes, but she won four holes between Nos. 11 and 17 to move on.
Choi never trailed in her match with Shin and closed out her countrywoman with a birdie at the par-3 16th.
Kerr saved par from a greenside bunker at No. 18 to extend the match, but she hit her second shot into a lateral hazard on the first playoff hole and had to take a drop. Hurst opened the door a little by missing the green and knocking her third about 4 feet past the cup. However, Kerr, winless since 2010, missed her bogey putt and conceded the match.
There were a couple of surprises again.
Jodi Ewart of England, who knocked out Pettersen in the opening round, sent another Scandanavian to the sideline with a 3-and-1 win over veteran Sophie Gustafson. The 24-year-old will face Azahara Munoz. The Spaniard beat Webb 2 and 1.
American Angela Stanford, the No. 12 seed and the runner-up to Yoo two years ago, was impressive with a front-running 4-and-3 win over Eun-Hee Ji of South Korea. Stanford will play Hurst in the third round.
Anna Nordqvist of Sweden upset Jiyai Shin 2 and 1, winning three of the final five holes.
The weekend will be double rounds. The third round and the quarterfinals will be played Saturday, and the semifinals and championship on Sunday.
Julieta Granada of Paraguay posted the most impressive win on Friday with a 6-and-5 thrashing of Ryann O’Toole, who eliminated Lincicome in the first round.
Americans Mina Harigae and Jennifer Johnson both lost Friday after posting upsets in the first round.
A day after beating Creamer, Johnson lost 2 and 1 to Karine Icher. Harigae, who defeated Wie, was beaten 3 and 2 by U.S. Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu.