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Kraft Nabisco Championship: Stacy Lewis the champion

April 3, 2011 |  6:01 pm

Stacy-lewis4_350 It was a par putt that won it, a curving 11-footer needed by Stacy Lewis after her drive on the par-three 17th hole landed in the bunker.

Lewis measured the putt with no expression on her face. "It's gonna die left," she told her caddy, and, sure enough, that's what it did. As the putt slowed, it took a left turn into the cup. Lewis pumped her fist and Yani Tseng's shoulders slumped. A moment later Tseng bogeyed that 17th hole leaving her three shots behind Lewis.

So the walk up the par-five 18th hole, with the gallery applauding Lewis, a 26-year-old University of Arkansas graduate who spent many of her teenage years wearing a back brace because she had scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and who is an enthusiastic supporter of many scoliosis-centered charities, was made by Lewis with perfect posture and a very curving smile.

Lewis won her first LPGA Tour event Sunday with the Kraft Nabisco Championship victory, a major on par with the Master's since it has been played at the same course, Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, for four decades. She won it by playing side by side with world No. 1 and defending champion Tseng on Saturday and Sunday. She played from behind -- Tseng led by two going into Sunday's round -- and she did it by making only one bogey and by withstanding Tseng's confidence during the final round. Tseng hugged the trophy Sunday morning, as if wanting to make it clear how much she wanted it again.

But it was Lewis who shot a three-under-par 69 on Sunday, tied for the best round of the day in challenging conditions filled with swirling wind gusts. Her four-day total was 13-under 275. Tseng finished with a 74. Lewis took a winner's check of $300,000 and then a joyous jump in Poppi's Pond, the traditional soppy celebration for this first major of the year. Lewis cannonballed into the water with her father, mother, sister and caddie. The splash was no bigger than the grins.

Michelle Wie, 21, finished sixth, her best in a major by far since 2006, but she was never a factor. Wie finished the tournament at three under after shooting a three-over 75 on Sunday. In fact it was 2007 champion Morgan Pressel who was the only player besides Lewis and Tseng who mustered a run. Twice Pressel got to 10 under but he scorecard Sunday included a double bogey, triple bogey and a quadruple bogey. She still ended ahead of Wie and in a three-way tie for third.


Kraft Nabisco Championship leaderboard

Yani Tseng leads Kraft Nabisco Championship after three rounds

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Stacy Lewis reacts after making at birdie putt at No. 9 on Sunday during the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Credit: Danny Moloshok / Reuters