ROGERS, Arkansas (AP) ― Stacey Lewis still feels like she has plenty to prove, even now.
Even during a season in which she’s won her first major championship and has posted eight top-10 finishes, the former Arkansas golfer isn’t content.
Lewis will have the chance to add to her growing resume when the LPGA’s P&G NW Arkansas Championship tees off Friday. In order to do so, however, she’ll have to beat out a talented field that includes 13 of the top 15 players in the Rolex rankings.
The event at Pinnacle Country Club is a homecoming of sorts for Lewis, who was a four-time All-American 20 minutes away at Arkansas. She knows the course well, having unofficially won the rain-shortened event in 2007 as an amateur.
Since then, Lewis has quickly risen through the LPGA ranks and is currently third on the money list with more than $1.1 million in earnings in her third full season on tour. She’s been a model of consistency this season, winning her first major at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April while refusing to rest.
“I didn’t want to be kind of the one-time winner and then the rest of the season I don’t do anything,” Lewis said. “I wanted to kind of prove that the Kraft wasn’t a fluke and that I could play out here and have just kind of been riding the momentum.”
Lewis finished tied for second at last month’s Canadian Women’s Open, but she left little doubt where a win near her collegiate home this week would rank on her list of accomplishments.
“For me, this golf tournament is another major,” Lewis said. “I mean, it would be up there with the Kraft to win it.”
Lewis finished tied for ninth at the event last season, and she faces no easy task once again this year.
Yani Tseng ascended to the top of the rankings with a dramatic comeback win at the NW Arkansas Championship last year, making four birdies during a five-hole stretch to overcome Michelle Wie by one stroke.
Tseng’s stellar play has continued since last year’s win. The 22-year-old became the youngest player, male or female, to win five major titles when she won the British Open last month, and she’s held the top spot in the rankings for 29 consecutive weeks.
“This year my goal is to become No. 1 and I did it,” Tseng said. “I never thought I’d win two majors this year and now it’s just very ... it’s incredible. I just feel like I’m living the dream and this is how, why we work so hard and we want to achieve our goals.”
Tseng tops the LPGA money list through 15 events, having won more than $1.8 million this season. The top 12 players on the list are entered this week, though No. 13 ― and 2009 champion ― Jiyai Shin withdrew due to a back injury.
Tseng said she doesn’t feel any extra pressure to defend her title this year and is only looking to continue a positive approach as she battles the 6,264-yard, par-71 course.
Brittany Lincicome rose five spots in the rankings, from No. 10 to No. 5, with her win at last month’s Canadian Women’s Open and is entered this week. Also in the field is Wie, who nearly won last year’s event after posting a 28 on her first nine of the second round. She led by three strokes entering last year’s final round and posted a 2-under 69, which proved one shot short of Tseng, who closed with a 6-under 65.
Wie hasn’t won on the tour this season but has finished second twice, including tying with Lewis last month at the Canadian Women’s Open.
“Some weeks I don’t play as well as I want to but I just keep working at it, trying to get better and better every week,” Wie said. “I feel like I’m on a stage where hopefully I can play a little more consistently or try to play a little more consistently.”