As the sun descended Friday at Las Colinas Country Club it was difficult not to notice the Texan who sauntered in through the figurative saloon doors to crash the front-runners’ party.
The Woodlands native Stacy Lewis — whose 3-year-old nephew was outfitted in a T-shirt inscribed with a hard-to-dispute “My aunt is a better golfer than yours” — battled afternoon winds to match the low round of Day 2 of the North Texas LPGA Shootout with a 7-under 64.
At 7 under for the tournament, Lewis is stalking leaders Caroline Masson and Meena Lee, who lead the world’s top-ranked American by a shot at 8 under.
Natalie Gulbis, who shot a 6-under 65 in the second round, is tied with Lewis in third.
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“I didn’t really do anything really crazy different from [Thursday] other than I putted better,” Lewis, the world No. 3, said of a first-round 71. “Just played really solid. I felt nice and relaxed out there, so it was a nice day.”
Like her nephew’s T-shirt, Lewis hopes the writing is on the wall. She turned in a bogey-free, seven-birdie round and is due after another near-miss at last week’s Swinging Skirts Classic.
Lewis has six runner-up finishes since winning the Women’s British Open in August. The eight-time tour winner has five top 5s and seven top 10s in eight starts in 2014.
She joked that she felt better after Sunday’s runner-up finish to Lydia Ko after “throwing some medicine balls against the wall.”
“My goal every week is to put myself in contention, and I’ve done that a lot,” Lewis said. “I’m doing all the right things. I’m not doing anything bad, it’s just all the cards are not falling my way yet.
“But I’m playing good golf.”
Masson, a former European Tour regular seeking her first LPGA victory, flirted with contention at Las Colinas a year ago and put herself in good position again with a 15-foot birdie putt at the par-5 18.
The German native, who attended school at Oklahoma State, sank three birdies on the back as part of a five-birdie, one-bogey round.
Lee also shot 64 in an eight-birdie, one-eagle, three- bogey tour of the club’s hilly terrain.
Perhaps there were no bigger surprises than Lee and Gulbis. Lee has won twice on tour, but not since 2006. Gulbis’ drought is approaching seven years after her lone career victory at the Evian Championship in 2007.
Gulbis’ eight-birdie round was her first sub-70 round in 2014. She was forced to withdraw from the Lotte Championship in the middle of April because of a wrist injury. She returned last week but missed the cut, one of three missed cuts this season. Her best finish in 2014 is 67th.
“I had a really great off-season,” said Gulbis, who wore a brace on the left wrist, to this point only self-diagnosed as “sore.” Gulbis said she’ll see a specialist this week.
“I felt really good coming into the season, and then I got hurt and took some time off, so that’s been a bummer.”
Christina Kim is alone in fifth at 6 under. First-round leader Suzann Pettersen shot a 1 over on Friday and was joined by LPGA veteran Cristie Kerr as one of five players at 5 under.
Scores in the morning rounds reflected the day’s more favorable conditions. The wind picked up significantly in the afternoon.
Fort Worth’s Angela Stanford followed up an even-par first round with a 1 over on Friday afternoon, though she made it under the plus-3 cut line and will play Saturday and Sunday.
Par eluded Lee, a Seoul, South Korea, native, on her front nine. She had an eagle, five birdies and three bogeys.
“My putting was really good,” said Lee, who started the tournament with a double bogey. “The shot was good and the putting was working. Everything was on my side on the front nine.”