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Lewis’ Olympic joy grows after course-record 63

RIO DE JANEIRO – She did not name any names. But it’s clear that Stacy Lewis feels some of the big names in men’s pro golf used the advance hysteria about Rio’s problems as an excuse for skipping out on the Olympics.

“There are a lot of reasons why we shouldn’t have come,” Lewis said Friday, “whether it was Zika or other issues. I did my homework and nobody gave me a good reason why I shouldn’t come. There would have to be something seriously wrong with me not to come to the Olympics.”

Lewis, a two-time major winner on the LPGA Tour, thought something was seriously wrong in Wednesday’s opening round when she shot a 1-under 70. She felt fortunate to break par, her swing felt so cranky. Come Friday morning, she was still tinkering with it on the practice range with her husband of two weeks, Gerrod Chadwell.

Chadwell, the women’s golf coach at the University of Houston, told people his wife was a tad grumpy before the second round. A good sign of the relationship, she figured.

“He’s learning the different levels of grumpiness with me, I guess,” Lewis said with a smile. “I was a little mad on the range this morning, to be sure. I don’t know. Sometimes when I get mad, I get more focused.”

She should be grumpy more often. Still worried about her swing, Lewis went out and shot an 8-under par 63 on Friday, breaking the competitive course record at the new Olympic layout (all right, so it’s been open for about a week) and moving to 9-under at the halfway point of the tournament, one shot behind Inbee Park.

Lewis, 31, made 11 birdies in her round. Afterwards, she couldn’t remember if she’d ever done that in a round. She had one bad hole, a double bogey on the par-3 14th, then refocused her anger once again. She birdied the final four holes, finishing with a flourish by hitting a hybrid 199 yards to four feet and making the putt.

“Something seemed to click, and I got more confidence as the day went on,” she said. “And the putts going in always helps. I didn’t expect this today.”

Lewis was asked what it meant to perform this well on the Olympic stage. She has won a couple of LPGA player of the year titles and is eighth on the current money list. But the women’s players have an awareness of what Olympic golf can do to advance their sport around the globe.

“Just to be atop the leader board at the Olympics, now every kid is going to dream of doing it,” she said. “It’s been such a cool week. The highlight for me was getting to see the guys on the podium Sunday getting their medals and thinking how cool it would be to do that on Saturday. It’s a great motivating factor.”

If any golfer had a reason to skip Rio, it was Lewis. She has had a busy summer. At one point, she played six straight tournament on an uncommonly packed LPGA schedule. She and Chadwell tied the knot on Aug. 7, days before she had to leave for the Olympics.

“I see it as an opportunity,” she said. “If you start playing some good golf, you can get on a run and win some tournaments.”

Lewis had four straight top-10 finishes on tour before coming to Rio, so she figures a win could be coming soon. Whatever the case, she’s loving the Olympics and getting to as many other events as she can. Later Friday, she planned to go with her husband to the Olympic park to see some events.

“I’m more excited about the diving I get to go see this afternoon than my round,” she said.

The woman must be one heck of a diving fan.

email: jsullivan@buffnews.com

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