With the Ryder Cup hangover entering that dull ache stage just before you break out the chicken soup and Saltine crackers, it’s good to have real golf being played again…even if it is half a world away.
The first round of the Reignwood LPGA Classic in Beijing kicked off while the vast majority of people on the East Coast hit their deepest, dreamiest REM sleep. And the No.1 player in the world picked right up where she left off before the travel break.
Stacy Lewis shot 7-under 66, a round that included five birdies in the last seven holes, to take a one-shot lead over Caroline Hedwall.
“It’s a good start but we have a long ways to go,” Lewis said afterward. “At the end of the day you want to be in the lead. I led the last tournament in Alabama after the first day and then didn’t really play as good the next two days. So, you learn you just have to stay patient. You’re not going to shoot a 66 or 65 every single day.
“Yeah, I want to be in the lead. But I want to be in the lead coming up 18 on Sunday as well. This is a good start but we have a long way to go.”
Lewis still has a long way to go to close out 2014 the way she wants. Winless in the majors, she still has three victories, five runner-up finishes and 15 top-10s, a performance that has her leading the Race to the CME Globe (the LPGA’s season-ending bonus pool), and has earned her $2,214,143, the most of any single season in her career.
She desperately wants to win Player of the Year again, and widen her lead in the Rolex World Rankings. But more than anything, she wants to win in Beijing on a very straightforward Western-style golf course that could easily be in Virginia, not within sight of the Great Wall, because she thinks she let one slip through her grasp in China a year ago.
“I think looking back on last year, this was one of the tournaments I felt like just got away from me,” she said. “Shanshan (Feng) hit a great shot (on 18) but I also could have birdied that (18th) hole and gotten into a playoff. I had my opportunities and I just didn’t take advantage of it on 17 and 18. So, I was looking forward to coming back just because the golf course fits my game and my eye. I felt like I could go low here again.”
So far that assessment has proved to be correct. But as Lewis said, there is still a long way to go.