The gap was too big for Stacy Lewis at the Wegmans LPGA Championship on Sunday.
In April, Lewis overcame a two-shot deficit and defeated Yani Tseng, the world's No. 1 ranked golfer, by three strokes in the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Lewis, 15th in the world rankings, had an eight-stroke slope to climb on Sunday and came up short in her attempt to keep alive her chances of a major grand slam.
The three-year pro shot a 1-under 71 to finish the tournament at 6-under in a tie for sixth at Locust Hill Country Club.
"I played solid again today, but I left a lot out there like I have all week," Lewis said. "Every round I left three or four shots out there. Kind of frustrating, but it was still a good finish."
Lewis was winless heading into the start of the LPGA season, but is in the middle of a career year. The defeat of Tseng was a defining moment, but her sixth-place finish gives her $538,064 in earnings on the year, just short of her career high from last year ($566,401) with half of the season still to come.
Lewis now has five top-ten finishes in her 12 career majors and has the lowest scoring average she has had in her three years as a pro.
"It's probably been my best year in my career so far," Lewis said. "I just have to go out there and try and win again."
On Sunday, Lewis started her day with birdies on holes three and five and looked as if she was primed for the second spot behind Tseng. A bogey on the par-5 eighth was a set back, but she countered it with another birdie on the par-3 ninth to get into a three-way tie with Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer at 7-under heading into the final nine holes.
On the back, two bogeys and a birdie on the par-5 eleventh was all she could muster. Lewis said that she had some missed opportunities throughout the tournament but was optimistic about moving forward.
"I know I left a lot out there, but I told my caddie when we were coming into 18 that I did a lot of good things this weekend," Lewis said. "I had a lot of good momentum to take into next week."
The 26-year-old's success is made even more impressive considering she wore a back brace 18 hours a day for 7 1/2 years of her life. Lewis was 11 when she got the brace and only removed it to play golf.
She had back surgery during her senior year in high school that forced her to redshirt one year before joining the University of Arkansas women's golf team in 2005. She was named an All-American four times at Arkansas and was the 2007 NCAA Division I National Champion.
But after two years of obscurity on the tour, Lewis's major championship has spread her story and transformed her into one of the more recognizable players.
"I get a lot more questions [from the media] and people know who I am," Lewis said. "I was just happy the way I played because I got the grand slam questions and all that. I was just happy with the way I came out."
Tseng's dominant performance this past week offers a bleak outlook for the rest of the players on the tour this year. But if anyone knows what it takes to take down Tseng, it's Lewis. Lewis said she thought Tseng was untouchable on Sunday and thinks this week's championship served as an ultimatum for the rest of the players on the tour.
"We have to get better," said Lewis of the rest of the LPGA field. "For me it's putting, I need to make some more putts. I've hung with her for four days and beat her. I mean I know I can play with her."