Ai Miyazato claims win and World No.1
Once Ai Miyazato of Japan stopped worrying about becoming the No. 1 player in women’s golf, getting there was easy.
Dominating the LPGA Tour in a way akin to Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa, Miyazato cruised to her fourth win of the year and took over the top spot in women’s golf with an impressive two-shot victory over M.J. Hur of South Korea in the reborn $1.5 million ShopRite LPGA Classic on Sunday.
The Rolex rankings won’t be announced until Monday, but the LPGA said Miyazato will be No. 1.
“When I started playing in the States, that’s when I really started thinking about being No. 1,” Miyazato said. “That became a dream of mine, especially watching Annika and Lorena play. Now that I am No. 1, I still can’t believe it, but I do feel very comfortable with it.”
Miyazato, who turned 25 on Saturday, shot a 7-under 64 in winning for the first time in the United States, and for the fifth time since joining the tour in 2006.
Miyazato was machinelike on Seaview’s Bay Course on Sunday in the shadow of Atlantic City. She started the final round of the 54-hole tournament two shots behind Hur and she had a piece of the lead after making a 15-foot birdie at No. 2 and a tap-in on the par-5 third hole. A 3-foot birdie on No. 9 gave her sole possession of the lead and she opened daylight with a 15-footer on No. 10 and a 30-footer for birdie on the 14th hole.
The birdie on 10 came after she played out of a fairway bunker.
“I believe in myself and the game and no matter what the situation is or the pressure is I feel like I can play my game,” said Miyazato, who had seven birdies and no bogeys over the final 18 holes.
While the winning margin was two shots, it was really never that close. Hur, the second-round leader, had to birdie the final three holes just to get second place.
Even when the 20-year-old Hur, who was playing in the group behind Miyazato, drew to within two shots with birdies at Nos. 16 and 17, the Japanese star responded. She hit her third shot within 10 feet and made the birdie.
“I said to myself I need one more good swing, one more good putt,” Miyazato said. “So it was a good self-talk and I was really able to stay in control of myself out there.”
Miyazato had a 54-hole total of 16-under 197 to earn a winner’s check of $225,000, pushing her earnings this year to $830,238.
Her earlier wins this year were in Thailand, Singapore and Mexico. Her first LPGA win came last year in France.
Miyazato will replace Jiyai Shin of South Korea atop the rankings. Shin has missed the last two tournaments after undergoing an appendectomy. She hopes to return to the tour in next week’s LPGA Championship in Rochester, N.Y.
Shin took over the top spot after Ochoa retired earlier this year to focus on starting a family.
The thought of becoming No. 1 distracted Miyazato in recent weeks and it led to her missing the cut in last weekend’s State Farm Classic. She had a long talk with her caddie Mike Seaborn on Wednesday.
“We had a really good talk about the world rank, and what I need to do to focus right now,” Miyazato said. “So that’s why I got so clear about this week and started again focus my swing and every single shot.”
Hur, who led the State Farm Classic after 36 holes last week before faltering and slipped to a tie for 16th, got a chance to play against Miyazato recently in the second round of the Sybase Classic, a match play event.
“She’s just gorgeous,” said Hur, who was looking for her second career win. “She hits straight and has good putts, so I think she plays really simple. I want to be playing that, too.”
Fellow South Korean Inbee Park, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open champion, had a final-round 67 and finished third at 12 under, four shots behind the winner.
Suzann Pettersen of Norway, South Korea’s Hee-Won Han and Katherine Hull of Australia shared fourth place at 11 under, one shot ahead of Paula Creamer, who had a spectacular return in her first tournament since surgery on her left thumb in March.
“I take some positives out of this,” said Creamer, who shot a 71. “To have a chance to win on Sunday and to get those nerves out, to get back in that competitive mode on the last day is something that I would have been grateful for if somebody told me last week. You know I didn’t win, but I played great.”
Miyazato just played better, which is what she has been doing all year on the LPGA Tour.
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