NAPLES, Fla. (AP) – If all goes right this week for Stacy Lewis, she'll wrap her arms around a $1 million bonus at the end of the Tour Championship and close her up-and-down season on a decided upswing.
Somehow, the money isn't in her mind.
"When you've had six runner-ups, you can block it out," Lewis said Tuesday.
Fair enough. That's why getting one – as in, one victory in 2015 – is more important to Lewis than the potential for the $1 million bonus that would come if she emerges as the winner of the "Race to CME Globe" bonus prize that adds another important and lucrative element to this week's LPGA season-finale at Tiburon Golf Club. The tournament starts Thursday.
Lewis, Lydia Ko and Inbee Park are the three players in the field this week who control their own destiny when it comes to the $1 million this week. Each would wrap up the prize with a win in the finale, though Ko and Park took much different routes this season. They both won five times, while Lewis never got to the winners' circle.
"I definitely would have liked to have won, for sure," said Lewis, the third-ranked player in the world and the top American on tour. "But all in all, if you cannot win a tournament and be third on the money list and third in the CME points and still have a chance to win $1 million at the end of the year, it's really not that bad."
Ko and Park are essentially going head-to-head for player of the year, scoring title and money titles along with the world's No. 1 ranking this week. Sei Young Kim, Lexi Thompson, So Yeon Ryu, Amy Yang, Anna Nordqvist and Shanshan Feng also have a mathematical chance of winning the bonus, though all will need help – a whole lot , in some cases – in their quest to grab that prize.
"I'm just going to try to enjoy it," said Ko, the tournament's defending champion and the $1 million winner last year. "Same mindset as last year."
Lewis is winless in her last 38 LPGA starts, a skein that started immediately following a stretch last year when she won three times in seven outings. There's been 28 different winners on tour since, 18 so far this season, but Lewis isn't among them. Her best finishes this year have been the six second-place showings, two of those in playoffs.
Compare her numbers from the last two years side by side, and it's tough to find an easy explanation why that win hasn't arrived.
Scoring average, roughly the same. Putting numbers, roughly the same. She leads the LPGA in birdies just like she did a year ago, and has more rounds in the 60s than anyone on tour besides Ko and Park.
So the difference in Lewis' 2014 and her 2015 wouldn't necessarily show up on the scorecard or stat sheet. It might be on the ball.
Lewis switched from her longtime Titleist ball – it wasn't going to be compliant under new rules – to Bridgestone before the season, and figuring out how the new one played took more time than she thought. Eventually they found a ball she liked and could control, and going back to the Solheim Cup in September the confidence has been back to past levels since.
"I was hitting some horrible chip shots and thought it was my technique or I was doing something wrong," Lewis said. "It kind of turned out, it was all the golf ball."
Lewis was one of six Americans to have a hand in winning multiple points during the Solheim Cup, where the U.S. rallied to beat Europe 14.5-13.5.
The added confidence has been evident since: Lewis has three top-six finishes in four starts since Solheim, including a pair of those runner-up showings. So even if 2015 won't end up like 2014, when she became the American in 21 years to sweep LPGA player of the year, the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average and the money title, there's still plenty of motivation.
"The goal the last month or so was to make sure I was in the top three coming into this week so I could control my own destiny and not worry about anybody else," Lewis said. "I'm glad to be in that position and I like the way I'm playing."
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