ROGERS — One of Stacy Lewis’ biggest goals — outside of winning major championships — is a victory at the NW Arkansas Championship.
Unfortunately for Lewis and the throngs of Arkansas fans who packed Pinnacle Country Club to support the former Razorback, she’ll have to wait another year.
Lewis, who was tied for the lead heading into the final round of the 54-hole event, settled for fourth after shooting 10-under par. Lewis shot an even par 71 in her final round, finishing tied with I.K. Kim and amateur Lydia Ko for fourth place.
Inbee Park, the world’s No. 1 player, won her fifth tournament this year after beating So Yeon Ryu in a playoff. Lewis finished two strokes behind Park and Ryu.
“I knew it was going to be tough because I knew there were four people tied for the lead,” Lewis said after her round. “So it’s going to be a shootout. Probably was going to end in a playoff, which it did. I knew it was going to be close. … I really felt good about the way I was playing. Early I hit some great putts that really would’ve, I think, gotten the momentum going the right way and I just never quite did.”
The finish still proved to be Lewis’ best since being named the unofficial winner as an amateur during the inaugural event, which was shortened to one round because of weather in 2007. Her previous best was a tie for eighth place in 2011.
But Lewis looked back on missed opportunities Sunday, which began on the third hole when she missed a short putt for birdie. She remained at even par through six holes before running into trouble with a double bogey on No. 7. Lewis recovered to birdie No. 8 and No. 10, but could never get back on top of the leaderboard.
“It was just one bad swing on 7 put me in a really bad position,” Lewis said.
Support from the pro-Lewis crowd never wavered, though. She was followed by a big gallery of supporters throughout the day and walked to the green on No. 17 as spectators called the Hogs. Lewis pulled a Hog hat out of her bag walking to the green and handed it to her caddie, who sported the hat while she played the hole.
Lewis found even more applause – and another Hog call – after arriving on No. 18.
She birdied the hole to finish even par for the day and 10-under for the tournament.
“I had some good opportunities on 11 and 12 that really, not making those kind of hurt me,” Lewis said. “It’s just disappointing. The fans were so great out here. I really want to do it for them. But it’s all a learning experience.”
The No. 2 ranked player in the world returned to Arkansas believing her recent struggles, in which she posted 27th-, 58th- and 28th-place finishes, were over. Lewis felt the same about her play after 54 holes in Northwest Arkansas.
The top-10 finish, which netted Lewis $93,539, was her first on the LPGA tour in more than a month (ninth place at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic).
“I’m hitting the ball great. I gave myself a lot of opportunities,” Lewis said. “Some days you hit good putts and they just don’t go in. Unfortunately, that was (Sunday). But I really like where my game is going. I’m hopefully peaking at the right time.”
Lewis will find out soon. She was on an LPGA charter plane that left for New York shortly after Sunday’s final round. The first round of the U.S. Women’s Open will begin at Sebonack Golf Club on Thursday.
“I’m very excited,” said Lewis, who has won one major championship in her LPGA career. “It’s been kind of starred on my calendar all year that I wanted to be playing well going into it. That’s what I’m most excited about.
“My swing is there. It’s just holing a few more putts here and there.”