There must be something in the water lately north of the border that agrees with Stacy Lewis. After finishing tied for second a year ago at the CN Canadian Women's Open in Montreal and tying for fifth earlier this year at the inaugural Manulife Financial Classic, Lewis finds herself once again in contention atop the leaderboard following a third round 66 in Vancouver on Saturday.
Lewis birdied three of her first five holes and kick-started her round with an eagle on the very reachable 10th hole before adding another birdie on No. 13.
"I finally got off to a good start which I hadn't done any of the previous days," said Lewis, who opened with rounds of 72 and 71. "I had quite a few chances that I missed so a little frustrated with that. But definitely happy to be in contention and giving myself a chance for [Sunday]."
A two-time winner already this year, Lewis said successfully managing the finishing holes on Sunday will be key to victory.
"Those last five holes, those last par fours, you have to hit the fairway, you have to hit the green. Then you still have to hit some pretty good putts to make par," she said. "I think the last five holes are going to decide the tournament [Sunday]."
At 7-under par, Lewis and three others are just a stroke behind amateur phenom Lydia Ko, who stumbled at the end with a bogey on Saturday - one of the very few missteps through three rounds for the 15-year-old. Lewis admits she's somewhat surprised at the young teen's staying power at the top with a stellar field of LPGA pros chasing her.
"Suzann [Pettersen] and I were talking about it and it is kind of weird because this is our job; it's not supposed to be her job, and yet she's beating us. I think it's good for the game. She's playing good golf and more power to her."
Unofficially, Lewis is the last amateur to win on the LPGA Tour, however, her 2007 victory at the NW Arkansas Championship is not recognized as an official win because the tournament had to be shortened to 18 holes due to rain and dangerous conditions. Still, she understands what Ko will be facing when she tees it up in Sunday's final round.
"I didn't have four days to think about it," said Lewis. "That pressure, you start thinking about winning and you start seeing your name more at the top of the leaderboard, and it gets hard. It's hard for us professionals," said Lewis who will play with Ko in the final pairing on Sunday. "She's only 15, maybe that helps her... she's got nothing to lose."
Ironically, Lewis - or any other pro in the field - could end up with a hefty paycheck for finishing second should Ko go on to win. As an amateur, she would not be able to claim any of the $300,000 first place prize money that comes along with winning the tournament.
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