Lewis, Park lead world rankings as LPGA prepares for next month's Kingsmill tournament

The season's first major complete, the LPGA Tour is off this week — no sense competing with Bubba, Tiger and Augusta — as players prepare for a three-tournament stretch that concludes May 2-5 at the Kingsmill Championship.

Since the circuit's September appearance in Williamsburg, the food chain has changed little. Seven of the world's top 10 then, 16 of the top 20, remain in that select company.

Stacy Lewis, Suzann Pettersen and Cristie Kerr. Yani Tseng, Inbee Park and Ai Miyazato. Defending Kingsmill champion Jiyai Shin and the women she outlasted in a nine-hole playoff, Paula Creamer.

Like several top international players, Park had scheduling conflicts overseas last September and missed the Tour's return to Kingsmill after a two-year absence. But she's entered in next month's event fresh off two 2013 victories.

Park won the LPGA's Thailand tournament in February and followed up with a 4-shot victory Sunday in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, her second career major. Park's 15-under-par, 273 aggregate was the event's lowest score since Annika Sorenstam shot the same total in 2005.

"I've seen Inbee do this before," Lewis said in quotes posted on LPGA.com. "When she rolls it, you just can't beat her. She's the best putter on Tour."

Park's first major, the 2008 U.S. Women's Open, came two weeks before her 20th birthday. During her post-round news conference Sunday, she reflected on the differences.

"I was very young," Park said. "I don't think I even (felt) that much pressure on the final round because I didn't know what I was doing. It just came to me as a present.

"But this week I really felt nervous, and I knew what I was playing for. I really handled myself (well) under pressure, so that's something I'm very proud of."

Park won twice last season and led the LPGA in earnings and scoring average. She's No. 2 in the Rolex world rankings behind Lewis and engaged to her swing coach.

Like Park, Lewis has won twice this year. Her victories were back-to-back, in Singapore and Phoenix, and vaulted her to No. 1 in the world for the first time.

Tseng had been No. 1 for 109 consecutive weeks, the second-longest streak in the rankings' seven-year history. Lorena Ochoa held the top spot for 158 straight weeks, or three-plus years.

Lewis and Kerr, a two-time Kingsmill champion, are the only Americans to be No. 1.

"It's crazy," Lewis told LPGA.com when she became No. 1 last month. "That was my goal kind of since the middle of last year, and I really didn't think it would be possible this quick."

Last season's player of the year, Lewis will rate among the favorites at Kingsmill. She tied for ninth there in 2012, five shots behind Shin and Creamer.

While Creamer is winless since the 2010 U.S. Women's Open, her ninth career victory and first major, Shin has collected the XXL check twice since Kingsmill. She won the Women's British Open by a record nine shots the week after and captured the 2013 season-opener in Australia, besting Tseng by two and 15-year-old amateur Lydia Ko by four.

Joining Shinn, Park and Lewis as a tournament champion this year in Spain's Beatriz Recari. She has risen from No. 70 in the world last September to No. 25 this week, on the strength of three top-five finishes in six events.

Recari's victory in Carlsbad, Calif., last month was her first since 2010, her rookie year on Tour. Recari defeated I.K. Kim in a two-hole playoff.

At Kingsmill, that's just a warm-up.

David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/ teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP

Copyright © 2018, The Virginia Gazette