GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- Stacy Lewis had wanted this to be the weekend she returned to the top spot in the world rankings to avoid the distraction of what she called "all the extra story lines" heading into the U.S. Women's Open later this month.
Lewis replaced Inbee Park as the world's No. 1 player Sunday in the ShopRite LPGA Classic, shooting a methodical 4-under-par 67 to grab a 6-stroke victory on the Bay Course of the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club. In winning the event for the second time, the 29-year-old Lewis also topped the $1 million mark in 2014 earnings.
"It feels great," Lewis said. "I feel like I've played a lot of good, consistent golf over the last year, and I felt like I deserve to be here. I didn't feel like I stumbled into it. I just really felt like I worked hard and earned my spot here, and that's what I'm proud of.
"I'm definitely going to not take it for granted and really enjoy it this time. Now I know all the extra things that come along with it, but I'm ready for it this time."
There were several scenarios before the tournament in which any one of three players -- Lewis; Park; and No. 3 Lydia Ko, the 17-year-old sensation from New Zealand -- could have been No. 1 by Sunday evening. Lewis made it easy with her victory, as Park finished tied for eighth and Ko slipped to a deadlock for 48th place.
Park had held the top spot for the last 59 weeks, taking over from Lewis, who stayed there for four weeks in March and April 2013.
Lewis began the day with a 1-stroke lead over Christina Kim and reached the turn up by 2. Her back-to-back birdie putts of 25 and 15 feet on Nos. 10 and 11 made it a 3-stroke advantage before a bogey at the short par-4 12th reduced the margin to 2.
But after a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 13 and a bogey by Kim at the 15th, the lead had doubled to 4. Kim's double bogey at 18 contributed to the 6-stroke margin -- a record for this event -- at the end, and gave Lewis her 10th career win.
"Those putts on 10 and 11 kind of freed things up," Lewis said, "but that back nine was just so back and forth. It was kind of wild swings of emotion, from me, from Christina. We'd hit good shots and we'd hit terrible shots. It was kind of exhausting, actually, coming in."
Kim, who hasn't won since the 2005 season, hung on for second place at 203 after a 72, her highest finish in four years. Jennifer Johnson, who tied the tournament record with a first-round 62, led a four-way tie for third place at 204 that included Anna Nordqvist, Gerina Pillar, and Haeji Kang.
Lewis, who joined Hall of Famers Betsy King, Annika Sorenstam, and Juli Inkster as the only multiple winners of this event, said her time management is better than it was the last time she was ranked No. 1. But the weekly goal remains the same.
"I know people get tired of me saying it, but my goal is to win the tournaments," she said, "and so whatever happens after that is fine."
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