GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Becoming the top American female golfer was Stacy Lewis' main goal this season. Of course, getting there means winning tournaments and finishing high atop leaderboards in the process.
Lewis could be one day away from reaching her goal.
After a second straight round of 6-under-par 65 on Saturday, Lewis has a six-stroke lead heading into the final day of the $1.5 million ShopRite LPGA Classic at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club.
If Lewis wins, there is a good chance she'll be ahead of Cristie Kerr when the Rolex Rankings come out Monday. Lewis currently is seventh and Kerr fifth. Kerr is 1-over at the ShopRite LPGA Classic and tied for 32nd after two rounds.
"Every time I'm practicing, working out or whatever it is, that's what I'm working hard for," Lewis said. "My No. 1 goal coming into the year was to lead the Solheim Cup point list and be the No. 1 American."
This is the second time in her four-year career that Lewis, 27, has led heading into the last day of a tournament. The last time was just more than a month ago, when she won the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, a four-day tournament. But in that event, she felt she almost gave it away, winning by just one stroke over Lexi Thompson.
"I made the mistake of playing safe and not really staying into my game and what I was doing and worrying about what other people were doing, watching leaderboards," Lewis said. "So today out there, I made the turn - I think I had a two-shot lead - and kind of told myself, 'Let's see how big we can get this.' "
As she extended her lead Saturday, she remained aggressive and hit seven birdies. Her only blemish came on the sixth hole, where she got a double bogey.
Most of the field was finished by the time Lewis was near the end of her round. The closest person to her is Anna Nordqvist, who sits at 6-under after a round of a 4-under 67.
"I've been playing pretty solid golf," Nordqvist said. "Haven't really made a lot of putts in the beginning of the year. There were some really tough hole locations overall today, so it was hard to get to them. But I gave myself good birdie opportunities."
Katherine Hull, So Yeon Ryu, Azahara Munoz and Paula Creamer are all tied for third at 5-under. Yani Tseng, Hee-Won Hee, Mariajo Uribe and Mike Miyazato are tied for seventh at 4-under.
Tseng knows just how well Lewis can play. Tseng didn't play in the Mobile Bay event but watched from home. She noticed Lewis striking the ball well and playing at probably the highest level of her career.
Even Tseng, the No. 1 golfer in the world, wondered just how Lewis was doing it, especially at Seaview with the changing weather conditions and narrow fairways.
"She must be playing a different course," Tseng said with a laugh. "A six-shot lead, that's a lot. And she even made a double today."
Tseng isn't letting a big deficit get to her. She had a goal, too, heading into the season, and that was to be as consistent as possible and finish in the top 10 in all of her events.
While she comes into every tournament expecting to win, if that's not possible - and it seems as if it might not be with the way Lewis is playing - her next expectation is a top-10 finish.
"(Lewis) is a very, very, very good player," Tseng said. "She can make putts, she hits the ball very solid and I think she is very aggressive, too. I was very happy for her and hopefully (today) I still have a little chance, but hopefully (today) I can still be competitive. But I'm very impressed with how much she's done."
The course played slightly differently than it did Friday, especially on the greens. After overnight thunderstorms, the greens sometimes didn't allow golfers the rolls they wanted.
"It was easier than (Friday, without the wind)," said Munoz, who shot a 2-under on Friday. "But the greens were really soft. Some of the balls didn't bounce back and I was not that expecting that."
That's why Lewis' score was even more impressive, and it came on a course where she hasn't had success. She missed the cut last year, and in 2010 she finished tied for 14th, nine strokes behind the winner.
But when you're playing as well as Lewis right now, it probably doesn't matter where you are.
"I think the more you hit good shots on it, the more comfortable I'm getting on it, so it's starting to fit my eye more," Lewis said. "Today, we had a complete opposite wind than we had yesterday, so you really had to kind of think more, hit more hybrids and 3-woods off the tees. It didn't allow me time to even think about not liking the course too much."
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