GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Stacey Lewis feels like she’s close to winning again.
With her game starting to peak, there’s probably no better place for her to tee it up this weekend than the ShopRite LPGA Classic. The $1.5 million Classic will be held Friday-Sunday on the Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club. The winner receives $225,000.
Lewis won the Classic in 2012 and 2014. But she hasn’t won on the tour in almost three years.
“It’s a matter of the little things falling into place,” Lewis said, “and doing it for three days.”
The Classic begins at 7:15 a.m. Friday with action from the first and 10th tees. The field of 144 players features 11 of the world’s top 20 players. So Yeon Ryu, of South Korea, the No. 2 player in the world, is the highest-ranked woman in the field. The Golf Channel will televise all three rounds.
Past ShopRite champions are a story to follow this weekend. The tournament began in 1986, and except for a three-year gap from 2007 to 2009, it has been held every year since. A list of past ShopRite winners can compare favorably with any LPGA event, including major championships. Hall of Fame golfers Juli Inkster, Annika Sorenstam, Betsy King, Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak are past winners.
This weekend, Anna Nordqvist is trying for her third straight Classic championship. With a victory, Nordqvist, 29, would join Sorenstam and King as the only golfers to win three ShopRite titles.
“With the greens (on the Bay Course) being small and undulated, you have to hit good iron shots,” Nordqvist said. “I think that really fits my game.”
Lewis, 32, has three top-10 finishes this year. She finished tied for 16th at last week’s LPGA Volvik Championship in Michigan.
“I feel like I have an advantage over people on this course because I’ve played it more,” Lewis said.
Past winners have an advantage because the memories of their past victory can give them a boost.
“There’s always good vibes,” 2004 Classic champion Cristie Kerr said.
Kerr comes into this weekend playing as well as ever. The 39-year-old won the Lotte Championship Presented by Hershey and finished second in a playoff at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout in April.
“I’ve really worked hard on my golf swing and all aspects of my game,” she said. “I’ve played well for a long time. When you play professional golf for a period of time, you’re going to have great years and not-so-great years. It feels great to be playing well again.”
There is a sense of urgency for the players at the Classic because the 54-hole tournament is one of the few three-day events left on the LPGA Tour. Nearly all other tournaments are four-day, 72-hole events.
“I like three-day events,” 2011 Classic champion Brittany Lincicome said with a laugh. “It’s one less day I have to concentrate and focus.”
The Classic puts a premium on aggressive play.
Golfers don’t have much time to recover from a bad round. The 6,217-yard, par-71 Bay Course is vulnerable to birdies, especially on three its par-5 holes. The ShopRite champion has shot 11-under par or better in five of the seven years since the tournament returned in 2010.
“Par isn’t going to get it done,” Lincicome, 31, said.
Kerr said: “You definitely need to shoot a low score one day.”
For players starting on the front nine, the first birdie opportunity comes at the 492-yard, par-5 third hole.
“The first couple holes, maybe I’ll take it easy because I’ll be nervous,” Lincicome said. But then after that it’s gone. It’s game on when we get to No. 3.”
Lewis said the Bay Course is in great shape.
“There’s a lot of grass on it,” she said, “and probably a little more rough than in past years. It will put a little more premium on ball striking. But the greens are as good as I’ve seen them in a long time. I’m looking forward to playing.”