(Reuters) - Americans have won the first three majors this year and world number one Stacy Lewis would dearly love to follow suit with a fourth ‘home-grown’ victory at this week’s LPGA Championship in Pittsford, New York.
Already a double major winner, Lewis has come agonizingly close to adding a third grand slam crown this season, finishing third at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April and second at the U.S. Women’s Open in June.
The 29-year-old from Ohio has produced superb form for most of her 2014 campaign, racking up 13 top-10s in 18 starts on the 2014 LPGA Tour, including three wins, though she has tailed off slightly in her last three events.
“I have high expectations for myself,” Lewis told reporters at Monroe Golf Club on Wednesday ahead of Thursday’s opening round in the fourth of the year’s five women’s majors.
“I had a pretty good streak there of top-10s going for a while and I haven’t had one in a while. I‘m pretty tough on myself in that aspect, but I think that’s what drives me to get better. I don’t feel like my game is far off.”
Lewis took great delight in watching her compatriots Lexi Thompson (Kraft Nabisco), Michelle Wie (U.S. Women’s Open) and Mo Martin (Women’s British Open) land the first three majors of the season.
“It’s a great thing for the tour, with Americans playing well, your stars playing well,” said Lewis, who won her first major title at the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship where she overhauled world number one Yani Tseng in the final round.
“It’s something that hasn’t been done in quite a few years, and it’s been great to see. I would definitely like to add my name to that list and get a major win. That’s what we’re all out here for.”
Lewis likes the look of the par-72 layout at Monroe Golf Club, describing it as a genuine major championship test.
“It’s the type of course we should be playing,” she said. “You really have to think your way around. That’s what makes it a major championship test.”
New Zealand’s world number two Lydia Ko, a double winner on the 2014 LPGA Tour, would dislodge Lewis from the top of the rankings with victory this week but that prospect was by no means uppermost in her mind on the eve of the tournament.
”Winning would be great, but that’s in a couple of days’ time, and I‘m just going to take it day by day,“ said the bespectacled 17-year-old. ”If it goes my way, great, and then I become world No.1, it’s even better.
”But I‘m not going to think about it. I didn’t perform that well when I think, ‘Oh, my God, it’s a major, you need to play well.’
“So I‘m going to try to think of it as just another tournament. Hopefully I’ll hit some good shots and roll in some good putts.”
South Korean world number three Park Inbee will be defending the title she won last year in a three-hole sudden death playoff over Scotland’s Catriona Matthew at Locust Hill.
That triumph was the second of three successive majors clinched by Park in a dazzling run of form, and she ended the year with a total of six victories on the LPGA Tour.
Not surprisingly, Park has found it very difficult to replicate that form this season.
”Last year, I putt so well, I just holed so many putts,“ said the 26-year-old Korean, who has already won four major titles in her career. ”This year, my ball striking, my greenside chipping, everything has really improved - just not many putts.
”But it’s so hard to beat whatever I did last year. I knew that before I started this season I was going to have a challenge to beat last year’s record.
“I think it’s not a bad season at all for me because I had a win, and I’ve played very consistently,” added Park, who clinched the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in June. “I feel my game is in good condition.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue