Lewis leads the group at NW Arkansas competition

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Lewis leads the group at NW Arkansas competition

ROGERS, Arkansas - Stacy Lewis made four straight birdies and eight overall to shoot a 6-under 65 on Saturday and join a group of four players atop the leaderboard at 10 under after the second round of the LPGA NW Arkansas Championship.

Lewis, the world’s No. 2 player, earned an unofficial win at the rain-shortened event as an amateur in 2007. She is the local favorite this week, having played collegiately at Arkansas.

Chie Arimura and Beatriz Recari both equaled Lewis’ 65 and are tied entering the final round with Ryu So-yeon.

Kim In-kyung and defending champion Ai Miyazato tied for the lowest round of the day, each shooting a 7-under 64.

First-round leader Mika Miyazato shot a 70 and is three shots back, and top-ranked Park In-bee leads a group of three players two shots back at 8 under.

Back-to-back wins earlier this year briefly vaulted Lewis into the top spot in the world rankings, a position she said prepared her for the hectic schedule she faces this week.

“It’s everything I deal with this year with the week that I became No. 1 in the world. It was just chaos,” Lewis said. “Dealing with that pressure of being No. 1 in the world, I learned a lot from that.

“I honestly think that’s why I’ve come here this week and it doesn’t seem so busy anymore, doesn’t seem too hard to play with all the fans.”

Lewis was as low as 11 under after 17 holes, thanks in large part to needing only 27 putts for her round - a number that included several near misses and a three-putt on her final hole. The 28-year-old Lewis, who played during the morning, thrilled her pro-Arkansas gallery with four straight birdies on her first nine holes.

After starting on the back nine, she birdied holes 14-17 to reach 8 under before the par-5 18th took its toll. Lewis’ approach on her third shot came up just short and rolled to the bottom of the hill in front of the green. Her following chip did the same.

Fortunately for Lewis, she managed to save bogey with an up-and-down - thanks to her fifth straight one-putt. She then reached 11 under after four more birdies later in her round before bogeying her final hole of the day.

Still, Saturday’s effort put the formerly top-ranked Lewis in Sunday’s final pairing with Recari and well within reach of a championship.

Lewis will have plenty of challengers Sunday on a leaderboard that features seven players within two shots of the lead, including Park - with two major wins this year.

Arimura, the rookie from China, also needed only 27 putts on Saturday in shooting a bogey-free 65. She tied for the lead with birdies on her final two holes. Ryu birdied the par-5 7th hole - her 16th hole of the round - to reach 10 under.

Recari also posted a bogey-free round, birdieing four of her first seven holes before making the last of her six birdies on the par-5 14th. The Spanish golfer already has one win this year, the Kia Classic in March.

“I think overall I’m pretty happy and proud of how I handled myself the last two days,” Recari said. “I have a very clear idea of what I have to do mentally.

AP

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