Stacy Lewis ready to defend Open crown at Birkdale
Stacy Lewis strode down the famous final fairway of the Old Course at St Andrews last August believing that she needed a birdie to win the Ricoh Women’s British Open – and promptly holed a 25-footer for a three. As it happened, behind her Na Yeon Choi faltered but Lewis was not to know that – and perhaps she would not have done but for the American’s heroics. It was the 29-year-old’s second Major win and the continued story of an amazing recovery from being diagnosed with scoliosis at 11. Now she returns to Britain as defending champion.
Coming into St Andrews you were having your worst Major year while Inbee Park had won the first three. How much did it help to come in under the radar?
I was glad that everything was about Inbee as it was well deserved and she wasn’t getting the recognition that she deserved.
But I went into the week wanting to be the spoiler. I don’t think anyone wants to see a dominant player like that, we want to see some competition.
And I love St Andrews so much from my time playing in the Curtis Cup so I was happy and excited to be there and playing whatever conditions there would be.
Tell us about winning five out of five matches in the 2008 Curtis Cup
That week was huge, I played as many practice rounds as I could and two matches a day so I played 11 rounds that week.
I got such a good understanding how it played in rain, in wind and sunshine.
My caddy now had never been so we mapped out a game plan and worked out a strategy if the wind switched and where to miss it, we had every scenario mapped out.
Are you good at remembering certain courses and shots?
Pretty good, especially places you like. Alison Walshe and I played three of our four matches together so we had a practice round together and she had her caddy from the Curtis Cup and walked round with us so we would reminisce about shots and matches.
Links golf requires a lot of patience. Do you work with a sports psychologist?
Not too much, I try to keep things pretty simple. Over the years I have become more patient on the course and accept the bad bounces and bad lies and you realise you’ll get your good and bad bounces.
You grew up in Texas so you know about playing in the wind?
I love it and that is links golf. You can be just off the edge of the green, or 40 yards away, and can hit every club in the bag and that’s what I love about it.
You have to work shots back into the wind or let it ride the wind and know how far they will go.
The approach into the Road Hole 17th was possibly the shot of 2013. Talk us through it
It was a similar wind to two days’ prior and I hit a 4 iron. We called it a flat 4 iron as I hit it with a flat swing and a low draw, and hit a pretty good shot in there.
I said to my caddy it would be a flat 5 iron like that, I saw it and it came off perfect. It would be the best shot I have ever hit. You make putts towards the end of a tournament but that was the best.
The putt wasn’t exactly easy, I had to play it outside the hole, but you could see me say ‘one more’ so it wasn’t like I was thinking I had just birdied the Road Hole. I was just thinking of the last.
Afterwards it hit me in the locker room that it had actually happened.
You then followed it up with a 25-footer on a hole where not many putts are generally holed
I had the same putt in the Curtis Cup and worked with Mark Sweeney (AimPoint) earlier in the week and we had talked about that hole location and it doesn’t break as much as you think and is back up the hill.
It was one of those, I saw the line and just hit it. I wasn’t thinking about anything else, my caddy sometimes helps with putts but I said ‘I got it’ and he just walked away. It was pretty cool.
It was a long week. The bulk of Saturday was called off and you teed off before 7am on the Thursday. How did you maintain focus?
On the Thursday I woke up at 4.30am but you expect some funny tee times so it wasn’t a big deal. At Hoylake in 2012 it was an even longer day when we played sun up to sun down.
On the Saturday I was close to teeing off so I was on the range a long time and waiting. I was surprised we didn’t go out later in the day. It was unfair for the earlier starters so I thought they would call them in sooner or start the third round over again or make us play in the conditions later on.
How about playing two rounds in a day to close out a Major?
It is about maintaining energy levels. On the Sunday when we played 36 holes I was hanging around the putting green between rounds and didn’t want to sit down as I wanted to stay awake and not think too much about the fact that we had to play 36. My fitness levels were good and I was prepared, they didn’t re-pair the groups so I was ahead of the leaders so I knew that I could post a number and that helped a lot too.
Did you get a chance to sample the renowned St Andrews nightlife?
We got to know the owners of the Dunvegan pub at the Curtis Cup so we would have dinner every night there and me and my family stayed opposite there so I got to walk to the 1st tee. We went there afterwards and celebrated on the Sunday night after the Solheim announcement.
I sent the owners of the Dunvegan a picture of me and a flag on the bridge with the trophy. And she’s put that above the bar.