Lewis Fulfills 'Dream' of Becoming No. 1

After being the only player tournament to fire four rounds in the 60s, Stacy Lewis rolled to a three-stroke victory in the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup at Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix.

With the win - her second straight this season, the 28-year-old reigning LPGA Player of the Year replaced Yani Tseng as the No. 1-ranked player in Rolex World Ranking. The 24-year-old Tseng had held the top spot for the past 109 weeks.

Lewis, a former All-American at Arkansas and a four-time winner in 2012, has had to overcome a lot to become the best female golfer in the world. Diagnosed with scoliosis when she was 11, Lewis wore a back brace for 18 hours a day over six years in an attempt to correct the condition.

When the brace didn't work, she resorted to surgery, having a rod and five screws inserted into her back. That operation happened a mere 10 years ago, making Lewis's upward rise to the pinnacle of the game all the more remarkable.

"That was just 10 years ago," Lewis said after accepting the Founders Cup hardware and the $225,000 that goes to the champion. "That's not normal, that's not supposed to happen. I mean, I'm not, I'm not really supposed to be here. People with metal in their back, how do you play golf? I don't know. I don't know how. I don't know why I'm here."

But intense dedication, persistence and talent have helped her overcome those physical travails. Lewis, who also won two weeks ago at the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore, has simply developed into one of the game's hottest players, male or female.

She's won six times in her past 23 starts, with two of those coming in the four tournaments played so far this young LPGA Tour season.

Her ascension to the top makes Lewis only the second American - Cristie Kerr was the other - to become No. 1 since the rankings were launched in 2006. "It's crazy," Lewis said of her exalted standing. "That was my goal since the middle of last year and I really didn't think it would be possible this quick . . . I'm going to have fun, I know that. I watched Yani struggle with it for too long and I'm going to have fun."

Lewis was referring to Tseng's recent admission that she wasn't worried about losing the top spot, because being in that position has been "tough and lonely."

In the final round at Wildfire, Lewis overcame a four-stroke deficit to 54-hole leader Ai Miyazato. But Lewis posted nine birdies and a bogey to finish with an 8-under 64 and a 72-hole total of 23-under 265, three strokes lower than Miyazato, who closed with a 71. The 27-year-old Japanese player was in the mix right up to the end, but she suffered a devastating double-bogey on the par-4 16th hole when her approach to the green ended up in the desert and she was forced to take a penalty shot from an unplayable lie.

"I played really good, too, 20-under on this golf course is really good, I think," a teary-eyed Miyazato told reporters. "Just the one bad shot on 16."

Lewis and her fellow LPGA players now move on the Kia Classic, a 72-hole event that starts Thursday at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif. The venue is well known by Tseng, who entered the Founders Cup as the defending champion.

In 2012, the 24-year-old native of Taiwan won the Kia Classic by six strokes over South Korea's Sun Young Yoo. But that was the most recent of Tseng's 15 career LPGA victories, leading to her current year-long drought.