PINEHURST — Immediately after Stacy Lewis signed her scorecard, she left the clubhouse and headed to the putting green. And that’s where she stayed for the next hour.
Lewis, who started the day at even-par, shot a 4-over 74 Saturday and is six shots off the lead heading into the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open. On Thursday, when she was 3-under and the leader after the first round, Lewis called it “such an easy day.” There were no such declarations after Saturday. In fact, there were no declarations at all from Lewis, who refused to come to the media area for questions. She did talk to a familiar NBC TV reporter while she was on the practice putting green.
“I either hit a good putt that didn’t go in, or I hit a bad putt,” Lewis told NBC. “I’m working on my lines now.”
For the start of her post-round putting practice, Lewis held her right hand behind her back, putting three balls in succession with just her left hand from about 15 feet. Sometimes all three dropped in. More often than not, at least one didn’t. A coach came over and held a wedge across her upper arms, attempting to give her a visual for her line. Her success rate didn’t change much.
Lewis needed 34 putts in Saturday’s round. And, while that was just two more than her round Thursday, when she was the leader, this time she had three three-putts, the result of much longer attempts and just flat-out misses.
A bogey putt on No. 3 hit the edge of the hole and kicked away, saddling her with a double-bogey early (a skulled second shot from the natural area, which completely overshot the green and landed beyond a walkway on the fringe of the fifth green, didn’t help, either).
She mumbled to herself as she walked off the green.
It was just that kind of day for Lewis, who is no stranger to adversity. Her backstory includes 7 1/2 years of wearing a back brace 18 hours a day, from the ages of 11 to 18, in attempts to correct curvature in her spine from scoliosis. She only removed it to play golf, and, when the brace didn’t permanently fix the problem, she had spinal fusion surgery, with a rod and five screws going into her backbone.
Lewis, 29, is a two-time major winner and took back the No. 1 ranking earlier this month after winning the Shoprite LPGA Classic. She has 11 top-10 finishes in 13 starts this year, but she’s currently tied for 12th at Pinehurst No. 2.
Back-to-back birdies on Nos. 9 and 10 briefly brought Lewis to 1-over for the tournament, but her putting fell apart shortly after she made the turn. There was a three-putt on No. 12, with a par putt from about 8 feet missing its mark. A 26-foot birdie putt on No. 14 stopped on the edge of the hole as Lewis’ lips grew thin in frustration. Her final three-putt came on No. 15, when she left a birdie putt about 10 feet short, and her par putt lipped out.
Coming up to the 18th green, another 20 foot birdie putt was close, but not quite in. Lewis clutched her putter in frustration before tapping it in, ending her misery.
Most of her time on the putting green was spent working on the 12-15 foot range attempts, which went in about half the time. Then, about 50 minutes later, she attempted three longer distance putts, from about 40 feet. None dropped in the hole.
Fitting with the theme of her day.