PHOENIX -- Adversity works in powerful ways.
Stacy Lewis was penalized two strokes for tampering with a bunker Saturday during the third round of the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup at Wildfire Golf Club, and the setback acted as a strong motivating factor for Sunday's final round.
Transforming the hardship into a positive energy, Lewis used the misfortune as a building block to eventually capture the championship with a tournament-record score of 23-under-par 265.
She earned a three-shot win over Japan's Ai Miyazato and vaulted into the No. 1 spot in the women's golf rankings.
Instead of trailing Miyazato by two stokes entering play Sunday, Lewis was four back due to the penalty. The 28-year-old Ohio native responded with a 64 in the final round, making birdies on four of the last six holes.
Lewis, a former All-American at the University of Arkansas, shot 68-65-68-64--265. Miyazato fired a course-record 63 in Thursday's opening round, but she closed with a 71 to finish at 268.
On Saturday, Lewis' caddy, Trevor Wilson, traversed into the sand trap on No. 16 to test the surface. Officials ruled he tampered with the sand, and Lewis was docked two strokes.
"After what happened (Saturday), I was super motivated," Lewis said. "It was back and forth, and I was able to make key putts on (Nos.) 16 and 17. I played great, and it's unbelievable to come away with the win."
Key to the victory was a three-shot swing on No. 16.
On her second shot on the par-4 16th, Miyazato used a wedge and drove the ball to the left of the green and into the desert. With her ball lying amid cactus and desert vegetation, Miyazato decided to play the shot from that point instead of taking a drop on the fairway. Her return shot rolled past the green. She wound up with a double bogey.
Lewis made birdie, turning a one-shot deficit into a two-shot lead.
"I hit the pitching wedge but my instinct said that it was an easy nine," Miyazato said of the shot from the desert. "So, it was a little indecisive, and that's why I pulled my shot. You can't hit 100 percent on every shot. I had a good conversation with my caddy, and it wasn't a real solid commitment."
Lewis said in reference to Miyazato's misfortune, "I didn't see where her ball landed after the second shot. I saw she was kind of figuring out where to drop. I think at best, if she goes back, she's going to make bogey, so she did pretty good from that position."
Lewis made another birdie on the 17th hole that created the final margin.
After Miyazato birdied No. 10 and Lewis dropped in a par, Lewis trailed by three. Lewis made three birdies and a bogey on the next four holes while Miyazato played that four-hole stretch in even par.
"The big swing was on 13 and 14," Lewis said. "I made a birdie there, and she bogeys 14."
Lewis was assured of moving to the No. 1 ranking with a win, regardless of the result of the previous No. 1 player, Yani Tseng of Taiwan. Tseng finished in a tie for 59th at 284, and she lost control of the top spot after a 109-week reign.
Lewis began play in Phoenix at No. 3.
Tseng is No. 2 in the new ratings, while Na Yeon Choi of South Korea feel from No. 2 to No. 3. Choi could have moved to No. 1 with a win Sunday.
"That was my goal since the middle of last season," Lewis said regarding the top ranking. "I didn't think this was possible this early in the season. We've played only four tournaments, and it's just plain crazy."
NOTES: By winning the Founders Cup, Lewis takes home $225,000 of the total $1.5 million purse. ... For finishing second, Miyazato earned $138,527. ... After Lewis and Miyazato, Angela Stanford took third place with 17 under par, and tied at 16 under were Jessica Korda, Giulia Sergas, Lizette Salas and Jee Young Lee. ... After Lewis and Miyazato, Angela Stanford took third place at 17 under par. Jessica Korda, Giulia Sergas, Lizette Salas and Jee Young Lee tied for fourth at 16 under par. ... Earlier this month, Lewis captured the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore by one stroke over Choi.