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Michelle Wie & Stacy Lewis: friendship built on golf, diplomas and success

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SOUTHPORT, England - The friendly matches in South Florida can involve as many as eight players, with teams decided by drawing names from a hat.

Michelle Wie would seem to be a great pick, except for the timing.

"We usually play in the morning and then go have lunch," Stacy Lewis said Tuesday. "And she usually gets very focused on the lunch and kind of doesn't pay attention to the whole golf side of it. She'll tell you the same thing."

Wie laughed when told the story Lewis shared. Wie loves her golf and works hard at it. She also loves her food so much that before dinner gets to the table she's already thinking about the next night's menu.

For two personalities that could not be any more different, Wie and Lewis have become close friends.

One is an artist, the other a technician.

"You go to her house, she's painted everything that's on her walls," Lewis said. "I need my sister to help me decorate."

One is tall and powerful, the other is compact and precise.

"That's what Stacy is. She's consistent," Wie said. "She's deadly consistent. Annoyingly consistent."

One thing they have in common is a college diploma, rare in women's golf these days. And even that was different. Lewis graduated from Arkansas before she turned pro. Wie graduated from Stanford more than six years after she turned pro.

They are major champions and Nos. 1-2 on the LPGA Tour money list. And more than any two players, they are leading an American revival in women's golf, which resumes this week at Royal Birkdale.

Lewis began this recent surge of American success in the majors by capturing the Ricoh Women's British Open at St. Andrews last summer. Wie won the U.S. Women's Open last month at Pinehurst No. 2, making it around the Donald Ross greens without a three-putt over 72 holes. She won by two shots over Lewis, who rushed over from the practice range to be among the first to congratulate her.

A week later, Lewis rallied to beat Wie in Arkansas and take over the No. 1 spot on the money list, raising curiosity about a budding rivalry.

It's too early for that, and there are too many other players in the mix.

"I feel very honoured that people are putting me up against Stacy — No. 1 in the world, obviously," Wie said. "I don't think you'll find a rivalry where we hate each other or anything. But I want her to do well. I think she wants me to do well. But I think it's fun because we definitely want to beat each other. I don't want to lose to her but at the same time, I was really happy that she won in Arkansas and I think she was really happy I won at the U.S. Open, so I think it's very cool."

Lewis had to overcome more obstacles. Scoliosis forced her to wear a back brace for 18 hours a day from age 11 until she had surgery to insert a metal rod in her back before heading off to college. She has 11 wins, two majors and is the only American to be LPGA player of the year in the last 20 years.

Wie is the bigger star, the player who makes everyone look when she walks into a room.

"I don't know if anybody could be a female Tiger Woods, but Michelle definitely moves the needle," Lewis said. "I think her playing good golf is good for everyone. It's good for the tour and it's good for the other players. I said the U.S. Open couldn't have been scripted any better. We're on our biggest stage there and our biggest star winning there — and she won't even tell you that, but she is our biggest star. Her winning was huge for us."

Their paths first crossed at another U.S. Women's Open.

Lewis made her pro debut at Interlachen in 2008 and played in the last group before finishing third. Wie didn't break 80 in the first round and had gone two years without finishing in the top 10 on the LPGA Tour. They played together at Q-school later that year. Lewis was medallist . Wie got the headlines for earning her card.

"I knew as much about her as everybody did, just seeing her on TV and stuff like that," Lewis said. "A lot of players, your perception changes once you meet them."

They met as teammates on the Solheim Cup. They are now neighbours in Florida. They practice together. They have the same trainer and are motivated by how hard each other works. They spent Fourth of July together. It rained all day, so they hung out all day, talked and set off a few fireworks.

"I don't really know what it is, but I enjoy hanging around her," Lewis said. "It's cool how I've learned a lot from her, how she handles the media and how she's handled the pressures and expectations. She doesn't read anything that anybody writes and she doesn't really care what anybody thinks about her. Wish I could be like that, too."

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