Lewis shot a final-round 1-under 71 on Sunday to finish at 15-under and best Choi by one shot and Creamer, playing well despite minor injuries sustained in a car accident last week, by two. Her three-shot lead down to just one as she made her way to the 18th tee, the 28-year-old reigning Player of the Year watched her opponents stripe their tee shots.
Not to be outdone, Lewis reared back with her own driver, splitting the fairway, and setting up an approach shot to the green with a hybrid that required three putts for par and the win.
“All week, I played it as a three-shot hole, laying back short of the bunker and then laying up from there,” Lewis told reporters about her strategy on the 18th. “And I saw where Paula hit her drive past the bunker and I turned to my caddie, and we both at the same time said ‘driver,’ and I let it rip and that thing got so far down there.”
Lewis, who won the 2007 LPGA NW Arkansas Championship as an amateur, appeared to take charge of the match when she just missed holing an albatross on the par-5 seventh and tapped in for eagle.
“That hybrid was probably the best shot I’ve ever hit,” Lewis told the Associated Press. “I held it up against the wind just perfectly.”
Her advantage dwindled, however, with a bogey at 15 and another on the par-3 17th. Choi’s missed birdie putt on No. 18 to force a playoff sealed Lewis’ victory.
World No. 1 Yani Tseng finished a disappointing T28 and must be hearing footsteps climbing the Rolex Rankings ladder. Lewis was projected to return to the No. 3 after a brief absence, while Tseng’s lead over Choi -- a robust nine points 11 months ago -- could be down to just under one point when the official rankings come out on Monday.
As for Creamer, she was uncertain if she could even play this week after suffering whiplash in the fender-bender in Thailand Sunday night. She was clearly pleased with the effort, which was just shy of ending a winless streak that dates back to her U.S. Women’s Open triumph in July 2010.
“Geez, this is much more than what I ever expected, and to have a chance and really have a good chance to win this event, it felt good,” Creamer said. “It was nice to be in contention and have just a good attitude out there. I think that's the biggest thing that I take away from this week.”
Creamer planned to go home to Orlando to deal with her sore neck and right shoulder and expected to tee it up next at the LPGA Founders Cup starting March 14.
“We'll see how everything is feeling with my neck and shoulder and go from there,” Creamer said. “One step at a time.”