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Ai Miyazato heading for Australia

She's 19, she's already been described as the Tiger Woods of women's golf and she's heading to Australia.

Nineteen-year-old sensation Ai Miyazato broke the course record with a final round 67 on her way to steering Japan to victory over South Korea and the Philippines at the Women's World Cup on the harsh Fancourt links in George, South Africa at the weekend.

Despite her partner Rui Kitada's tearful closing 82, Miyazato carried Japan to a stunning win, leaving the best players in the world in her wake on arguably one of golf's meanest courses.

Webb closed with a 74, Hetherington 78, the classy Australians finishing five shots back in fifth place.

The other final day scores of the game's best players put Miyazato's feat of six-under-par 67 in true perspective.

American's Meg Mallon and Hall of Famer Beth Daniel returned 78 and 80 respectively.

Britain's former world No.1 Laura Davies and current British Open champion Karen Stupples both closed with 77s.

Miyazato and her impressive entourage, including a host of Japanese media, head to the Gold Coast later this week to prepare for next week's $800,000 ANZ Ladies Masters at Royal Pines.

"She's really something special," said Masters Bob Tuohy who's seen them come and go for more than 20 years.

"She's on billboards and TV ads all over Japan."

When Miyazato plays, the women's events in Japan out-rate the men.

"We've already received requests from 11 Japanese media while a Japanese television network from Sydney is coming up to film her," said Tuohy.

A five-time winner in her rookie year in Japan, Miyazato described her closing round 67, and particularly her front nine of 31, as the best golf of her life.

"I can't explain how happy and proud we feel," said Miyazato, who's not yet Japan's number one player with Yuri Fudoh owning that honour.

"We were surprised when we first came here to see discover how difficult the course is."

Miyazato though has a habit of making tough things look easy.

She was the first teenager in any sport to win more than $US1 million in Japan.

She won her first pro tournament, the Miyagi TV Cup in September, 2003, when she was still an amateur.

Her father is a golf coach and her two brothers are both professional golfers.

While 15-year-old Korean-American Michelle Wie has also been referred to as the brightest young star on the golfing horizon, Miyazato is already delivering the goods.

Both teenagers have drawn the Tiger Woods' comparison in women's golf.

But last November, when Woods won the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan and Miyazato was playing on the LPGA tour they went head to head on television.

Miyazato's rating dwarfed those of Woods.

"She's bigger than a rock star in Japan, they love her," said Tuohy, excited about having the teenager debut in Australia at the Masters.

About 15 players who contested the World Cup will compete in the Masters, including Davies and Stupples who finished seventh behind Japan.

Davies will tune up for a re-match with Miyazato by playing this weekend's $200,000 54-hole Titanium Enterprises Classic at Club Pelican at Caloundra.

 

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