HEISER: Lewis is the pick to win the U.S. Women's Open in Lancaster


And the winner is ... Stacy Lewis.

At least that's the pick here, with just more than a week to go before the U.S. Women's Open begins at Lancaster Country Club on Thursday, July 9.

Thousands of York-area fans are expected to cross the Susquehanna River next week to take in the biggest golf event in these parts in many moons. In fact, you could easily argue it's the biggest golf tournament in south-central Pennsylvania since the 1940 PGA Championship at Hershey Country Club, when Byron Nelson edged Sam Snead 1-up in a dramatic 36-hole match-play final between two future World Golf Hall of Famers.

The United States Golf Association can only hope for an equally fantastic finish next week.

When the winner is determined on Sunday, July 12, however, look for Lewis to hold the championship trophy.

That's certainly not a reach. Lewis is the best American player at No. 3 in the Rolex Rankings — and arguably "the best golfer in the world." That is what it says right at the top of Lewis' own website. That's a boast she can readily back up. She's been ranked No. 1 in the world and is a two-time LPGA Player of the Year, including in 2014.

So it's obvious she's no shrinking flower. She's sure of her abilities, and that kind of confidence is key to winning any USGA event.

She also knows what it's like to win majors, having captured the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2011 and the Women's British Open in 2013. She's also won nine other LPGA titles.

At age 30, she's in the prime of her career and she's also in good form, coming off a tie for third place in last week's Northwest Arkansas Championship, which was the final LPGA stop before the Women's Open.

She can also excel on tough USGA layouts, having finished second at last year's Women's Open to American Michelle Wie and tying for third in 2008.

Add it all up, and Lewis looks like the solid favorite at LCC.

The competition: But it won't be easy and it's certainly no lock. Lewis will have plenty of competition.

South Korea's Inbee Park is ranked No. 1 in the world and has already won the U.S. Women's Open twice — in 2008 and 2013. South Koreans have also won the Women's Open five of the last seven years. However, Park did not make the cut in last weekend's LPGA tournament.

New Zealand's Lydia Ko is No. 2 and tied for sixth last weekend. The 18 year old, however, has never won a major and has never finished better than 15th in her three previous appearances in the Women's Open.

Wie is the defending champion, but has struggled mightily this season, missing the cut last week in Arkansas and plummeting to No. 58 on this season's LPGA money list.

Two other Americans — Paula Creamer (2010) and Cristie Kerr (2007) — have won Women's Open crowns in the last decade and have to be considered threats. Kerr is No. 11 in the world, while Creamer is No. 31. Creamer, however, has only one LPGA title since her 2010 championship, while Kerr won earlier this season. Both Creamer and Kerr finished in the top 10 last week.

Others to watch: Some others to watch include:

— South Korea's Hyo-Joo Kim, ranked No. 4 in the world and the 2014 Evian Championship winner.

— Norway's Suzann Pettersen, ranked No. 5 in the world and a two-time major champion.

— China's Shanshan Feng, ranked No. 6 in the world and the 2012 LPGA Championship winner.

— Sweden's Anna Nordqvist, ranked No. 7 in the world and the 2009 LPGA Championship winner.

— South Korea's So Yeon Ryu, ranked No. 8 in the world and the 2011 U.S. Women's Open champion.

— American Brittany Lincicome, ranked No. 9 in the world and a two-time major champion.

— South Korea's Sei Young Kim, ranked No. 10 in the world and a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour in 2015.

— American Lexi Thompson, ranked No. 12 in the world and the 2014 winner of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

— South Korean Na Yeon Choi, ranked No. 13 in the world and the winner of last week's LPGA stop. She also won the 2012 Women's Open.

— Australian Karrie Webb, ranked No. 18 in the world and a two-time U.S. Women's Open champion (2000, 2001).

— American Morgan Pressel, ranked No. 21 in the world and the 2007 winner of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Of course, an unknown player could also come out the blue to win, such as Hilary Lunke did in 2003. That was her only pro win and she was retired by 2008.

Player to beat: Still, Lewis looks to be the player to beat. She's playing well, she's confident, she's experienced, she's in her prime and she's trying to win her country's national title for the first time ever.

The stars seemed to be aligned in her favor.

Stars, however, don't determine championships. Scores do.

And in less than two weeks, we'll find out if Lewis has what it takes to post the lowest score at the biggest tournament in women's golf.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.