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Lewis heads into the LPGA on hot streak

Stacy Lewis is playing the best golf of her life at a most opportune time.

The 27-year-old Texan will visit Rochester this week on the best run of any golfer on the LPGA Tour. Lewis has won two of her last three tournaments, including a convincing performance last weekend at the ShopRite LPGA Classic in New Jersey.

Her four-stroke victory pushed her to No. 3 in the world rankings, the highest for an American woman, and cemented her as a top contender for the Wegmans LPGA Championship, which will be held Thursday through Sunday at Locust Hill Country Club.

"I mean, you dream of it and you kind of can see yourself there eventually, but for it to actually happen, it's just unbelievable," Lewis said of becoming the world's top-ranked American.

It's been a steady rise for Lewis, who has seven top-10 finishes in 10 events this year. Prior to her victory in New Jersey, she won the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic in late April in Alabama.

Lewis ends a long reign by Cristie Kerr as the top-ranked American, a spot she had held in the Rolex Rankings since Nov. 23, 2009. Next up: Chipping away at world No. 1 Yani Tseng, the Wegmans defending champion.

"It's always in the back of my head," Lewis said. "It's just hard when Yani is so far ahead right now [Tseng has 833.56 points to Lewis' 410.84]. It took her a long time to build that lead, so it's going to take a long time to get closer.

"We'll go back after this week and kind of set some more mini goals. I don't know what they're going to be, but set some more mini goals for the rest of the year because I know I've blown my goals for the year out of the water."

Tseng, 23, is back to defend her title, a year after she became the youngest female golfer in history to win four major championships. She blitzed the field in 2011, winning by 10 strokes.

Tseng has three victories already this season and had recorded top-10 finishes in each of her first eight events. But that run came to an end Sunday, when she finished tied for 12th at the Shoprite.

The Wegmans LPGA Championship is the second-longest running tournament in LPGA history, surpassed only by the U.S. Women's Open. The tournament, which is the second major of the LPGA season, has a $2.5 million purse. It will be broadcast on the Golf Channel, from noon to 2:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Other past champions in the field include Kerr, Anna Nordqvist, Suzann Pettersen, Karrie Webb and Laura Davies.

> Welcome back, Tiger

Tiger Woods served notice Sunday with one swing that yes, he is in fact back.

Woods' flop shot on No. 16 at the Memorial was a reminder of his unmatched brilliance on a golf course, a save-it-to-the-DVR moment. It propelled him to his second victory on the PGA Tour this season, joining Jason Dufner and Hunter Mahan as the only multiple winners.

Woods is third on the FedEx Cup points list and seventh on the Tour money list, with a shade under $3 million in nine tournaments.

Of course, there are still some who won't believe he's "back" until he wins major No. 15, resuming his chase of Jack Nicklaus' record of 18. Woods is held to a different standard, one that he established with the mind-boggling pace he set earlier in his career.

At 36, Woods tied Nicklaus for second on the all-time Tour wins list with his 73rd. Nicklaus didn't hit that number until he was 46.

Woods might not get back to the Jordan-like dominance of his 20s, but he showed Sunday that greatness is still in him. That's good news for golf fans, even those who hope Woods never catches Jack. The game is more compelling when Tiger is in contention on Sunday.

> Tap ins

Patrick Fahey, a Bishop Timon-St. Jude graduate, who played his freshman season for the Canisius College golf team, will transfer from the school. Fahey will attend Cornell University, where he'll try out for the golf team. Fahey said the opportunity to receive an Ivy League education was too great to pass up. He's interning this summer with the Buffalo District Golf Association.

Nichols graduate Rene Sobolewski recently finished her sophomore season with the Vanderbilt women's golf team. Sobolewski played in 24 rounds, finishing with a 77.8 stroke average and one top-five finish (in the Vanderbilt/Texas Duel) for the Commodores, who last month tied for 11th in the NCAA championships, which they hosted at the Vanderbilt Legends Club. Sobolewski did not factor in the scoring in that event.

This is the first of a weekly column that will run through the summer. Readers are encouraged to submit story ideas and any local golf news of note to the email address below.

email: jskurski@buffnews.com