MOBILE, Ala. -- Circumstances have changed dramatically for Stacy Lewis since last year's Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, and that tournament might have been an impetus to her career surge.
The defending champion and No. 2-ranked Lewis returns to The Crossings Course at Magnolia Grove Thursday seeking her third straight win on Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail courses.
MOBILE BAY CLASSIC
''It's really nice to be back,'' Lewis said on Wednesday. ''You know, about this time last year is when things really kind of started going right for me. I'm in a completely different place coming into this year than I was last year. I mean, to even think I had six wins since we were here is pretty amazing. I'm excited to be back.
''I love this golf course," she added. "It fits my eye and the greens are perfect, so scores are definitely going to be low again.''
The former Arkansas star, who also won in Prattville last fall, wound up winning four tournaments and player of the year honors in 2012. She already has claimed two more titles this year with consecutive victories in Singapore and Phoenix.
Lewis won't have to compete against top-ranked Inbee Park, who has won three times this year but is skipping the tournament. Jiyai Shin is the only other player ranked in the top 10 who is playing in Mobile.
Still around is Lexi Thompson, who surged back to within a stroke of Lewis last year with a closing 65 and also finished second in Prattville.
Lewis managed to shoot in the 60s all four rounds on the par-72, 6251-yard course in Mobile.
Perception makes it clear how different things have become for Lewis, who is coming off a fifth-place finish at the Kingsmill Championship. She arrived in Mobile last year after failing to make the cut in Hawaii.
''I've had three top-10s in a row and people think I'm struggling,'' she said. ''I guess I set the bar a little too high, but my game's in a good place so getting back to a course (where) I'm comfortable is really nice.''
She even got a week at home after Kingsmill. Lewis said she ''practiced a little bit'' and spent enough time at the beach to get sunburned.
''It's something that I needed to kind of get away and just clear my head more than anything,'' Lewis said.