LPGA Tour

Ahead of ANA, Lewis reveals altered lifestyle a big factor in on-course struggles

Stacy Lewis has seen a change on the golf course as her priorities have altered.
Stacy Lewis has seen a change on the golf course as her priorities have altered. ( Getty Images )

Thursday, March 31, 2016

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — What is wrong with Stacy Lewis? It’s a common question these days regarding the former World No. 1, who hasn’t won since June 29, 2014.

On the eve of the ANA Inspiration, Lewis tried to answer that question, making herself vulnerable before a curious press. She then walked off the dais and broke down in tears, telling her team that it was one of the hardest things she’s ever done. Therapeutic too, probably.

First, understand this about Lewis: Her life has undergone a serious transformation in the past 16 months. She went from a player focused almost entirely on golf, to a player sharing every part of her world for the first time with someone other than her family. Lewis is a person who likes her space. She likes her quiet.

But she loves a man named Gerrod Chadwell, and, come Aug. 6, will vow to spend the rest of her life with him.

What does this have to do with golf?

Everything.

“The biggest thing is, I’ve got somebody in my life that’s more important than any golf tournament I’ll ever play in or any tournament I’ll ever win,” Lewis said. “And I honestly never thought I’d be up here saying that. I never thought I’d be in that position.”

Simply put: Lewis’ life priorities have shifted. And it has rocked her world.

Chadwell watched Wednesday’s press conference on TV and teared up. He knew this moment would come eventually. That Lewis, mostly a closed book when it comes to her personal life, would open up when the time was right. He just hoped it would come out eloquently. Lewis, as we’ve all seen, can run hot.

“I think a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders,” said Chadwell, head women’s golf coach at Houston.

A brutally honest evaluation of these past six months, Lewis said, reveals that she hasn’t been 100 percent committed to winning. Hasn’t been as engaged in the process. Hasn’t been as driven.

“It hasn’t affected the swing or the way I played,” Lewis said, “but it has definitely affected the scores.”

Two weeks ago, Lewis put a new flatstick called the Happy Putter in play. On Friday at the Kia Classic, Lewis tomahawked that putter to the ground and broke it midway through her round. She used her wedge the rest of the way.

On Sunday, a string of three-putts from inside 6 feet with her old putter left her furious as she headed toward the desert.

Lewis ranks the Dinah Shore Tournament Course, site of this week's ANA Inspiration, as her favorite on tour, though it has changed considerably since she won here in 2011.

The tree limbs don’t line the fairway as tightly as they once did, Lewis said. The course is softer. They’ve added a step-cut around the greens, which visually makes the putting surfaces seem larger.

“I think the year I played as an amateur, when Morgan (Pressel) won, was probably the hardest I've ever seen this golf course play,” Lewis said of 2007.

When Lewis won here five years ago, she took down the mighty Yani Tseng in dramatic fashion to establish herself as a force on the LPGA. This week at the ANA, Lewis played a nine-hole practice round with Tseng, who asked a serious question.

“Why is Lydia so good?” Tseng wanted to know.

Lewis replied: “You get in these modes playing where you can do no wrong, and if you miss a shot, you're like, Oh, OK. I can go get that up-and-down. I told her, ‘Yani, you were at that point too. I was there at No. 1. We've all been there.’ "

The reality is, Lewis continued, that the competition on tour has grown only tougher. Fearless young bombers such as Charley Hull, Brooke Henderson and Lexi Thompson join the unflappable Ko (no short hitter herself) as the next set to raise the bar as Lewis and Tseng did before them.

Lewis, now No. 4 in the Rolex Rankings, knows what it takes to be the best in the world. The sacrifice needed to play a worldwide schedule. And right now, that’s not necessarily the goal.

The focus now for this ultra-competitor is on the majors. Is it possible to play fewer than 30 events and be No. 1? Lewis wants to find out. Not that she’s going to trim her schedule too drastically.

“I think we’d both kill each other if she did that,” Chadwell joked.

Days from now, maybe weeks from now, Lewis might look back on this pre-tournament press conference as a turning point in her career. A moment when the walls came down and she allowed the outside world to see what’s swirling around in that sharp mind.

“Joining two lives together is hard,” said Chadwell, who flew to South Carolina on Wednesday with his Houston team for Clemson’s home event.

Chadwell realizes he’s what’s new in this equation but tries to keep in mind advice given to him by future father-in-law Dale: “Don’t think too much of yourself.”

Lewis will figure this out; she will win again.

In the meantime, when Lewis scowls on the golf course and looks like she’d rather be having a root canal, keep in mind the words of Chadwell:

“She is human and golf is hard.”

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