Ko, Lewis hope to end slumps in Marathon Classic (Jul 19, 2017)

BY AP • July 19, 2017

Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand has not won since the Marathon Classic in 2016 while Ohio native Stacy Lewis hasn't captured a golf tournament since June 2014, a span of more than three years.

So why are Ko and Lewis the topic of most every conversation this week as the LPGA Tour pulls into Sylvania, Ohio at the Highland Meadows Golf Club for the 2017 edition of the Marathon Classic?

It's because a win here this week would mean a little more to Ko and Lewis than it might for the other 142 golfers.

Ko, who's now No. 4 in the world, and Lewis, an 11-time winner on the LPGA Tour, highlight a field that includes six of the top 10 players in the world.

Top-ranked American and world No. 3 Lexi Thompson is here, as well as newly crowned U.S. Women's Open champion and World No. 5 Sung Hyun Park of South Korea and Canadian standout Brooke Henderson, who's ranked eighth.

On the line beginning Thursday in the 72-hole event is a total purse of $1.6 million, with $240,000 and 500 Race to the CME Globe points going to the winner.

They will challenge a par-71, 6,476-yard layout designed by Sandy Alves. The Marathon Classic, formerly known as the Jamie Farr Classic, has been played since 1984 with the exception of 1986 and 2011 and at Highland Meadows GC in the northwest suburbs of Toledo since 1989.

Lewis has gone 78 events without a win. This tournament was the first event she played on the LPGA Tour after receiving a sponsor invite. Lewis was born in Toledo, too, so it's easy to see why a win here would mean so much.

Lewis has picked up six top-25 finishes here and was fifth in 2016, her best showing in 10 starts at the tournament. In 15 starts this season, Lewis has five top-10 finishes, with a season-best runner-up finish at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

"It would be a big deal (to win this tournament)," Lewis said. "It would be a big deal for me personally, just being that I was born here, and my parents, I know it would be a big deal to them.

"It's always exciting. You know, this is a homecoming. I have a lot of family, a lot of friends here this week, but it's also a week of rest, just coming off the U.S. Open. It was a long, crazy week, and this week is definitely a little bit easier and kind of a low-key week and I get to hang out with the family, which is always fun."

Ko is the defending champion here, when she needed four extra holes to defeat Mirim Lee of South Korea and Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand to pick up her fourth win of the season.

But Ko's been winless since and is enduring the longest span of her pro career without victory. She has finished inside the top 10 seven times in 14 starts this season, with her best showing a runner-up finish at the LOTTE Championship.

Ko's trying to keep her "slump" in perspective and is using Lewis as an example of grace under pressure.

"All you can do is practice hard and stay in the moment and not get too carried away," Ko said. "Kind of like Stacy Lewis. She's playing amazing golf. Just because she hasn't won since whenever, it doesn't necessarily mean she's not playing good. I guess we're all just working for it to happen. We can't push it to happen."

The Marathon Classic will mark the 20th event in the season-long Race to CME Globe. World No. 1 and two-time season winner So Yeon Ryu holds a narrow lead in the current Race to the CME Globe standings with 2,504 points. Thompson is close behind with 2,254 points, and she is followed closely by reigning Race to the CME Globe winner Jutanugarn (2,177).

The 2017 LPGA season has seen two Rolex First-Time Winners along with 19 different tournament winners.

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