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Miyazato and Suggs tied for the lead
April 19, 2012

Rolex Rankings No. 8 Ai Miyazato and 2010 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Azahara Munoz share the lead at 8-under-par 136 following two rounds of play at the inaugural LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf. Fourteen-time LPGA winner Cristie Kerr and two-time winner Jimin Kang lurk just two shots off the lead at Ko Olina Golf Club outside Honolulu Kerr is in search of her first win since The inaugural LOTTE Championships features a 144-player field is vying for a $1.7 million purse with $255,000 going to the winner. The tournament marks the LPGA’s return to Ko Olina for the first time since 2008 and ninth time overall. The four-round event will finish on Saturday.

Azahara Munoz matched a career-low round of 8-under-par on Thursday to take a share of the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf lead. Her day included seven birdies – including tap-in putts at No. 14 and No. 17, a bogey at No. 2 where she missed a two-foot par putt, and an eagle at the par-4 sixth hole where she holed a wedge from 102 yards. Munoz shot her previous career-best round of 8-under-par in 2010 at the Tres Marias Championship, where she carded a 65 on a par-73 layout. The third-year player is coming off consecutive top-15 finishes at the Kia Classic (T12) and the Kraft Nabisco Championship (T15).

Ai Miyazato match her season-low round on Friday with a bogey-free 65. She made birdie on 14, 15 and 16 to take a share of the lead alongside Azahara Munoz after 36 holes at the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf. Miyazato previously recorded a 65 in the third round of the Honda LPGA Thailand, where she finished second. Entering this week, she was second in the Vare Trophy for low scoring average race to Yani Tseng. Coincidentally, Tseng is the winner of both events where Miyazato has finished second this season.

Meet the LOTTE Leaders

Ai Miyazato (-8): The 26-year-old Japan native is a seven-time winner on the LPGA with more than $6 million in earnings. She reached the top of the Rolex Rankings for 11 weeks in 2010, a year in which she won a career-best five times. Miyazato won her seventh tournament last season at the Evian Masters, a tournament that also marked her Rolex First-Time win in 2009. This season, Miyazato has runner-up finishes at the Honda LPGA Thailand and the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, where she crossed the $6 million mark in career earnings. She has four top-10 finishes in five events played this season.

Azahara Munoz (-8): The 24-year-old Spaniard is a third-year member of the LPGA. Her career-best finish is a tie for second at the 2011 Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. The 2009 Arizona State University graduate turned professional in September of 2009 and qualified for the Tour the same year via the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament. She went on the earn Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors in 2010. Munoz has one professional victory – the 2009 Madrid Masters on the Ladies European Tour (LET) – and was a member of the victorious 2011 European Solheim Cup Team.

Cristie Kerr (-6): The 34-year-old American is a 14-time winner on the LPGA and a six-time member of the U.S. Solheim Cup Team. In 2010, she became the first American to reach the Rolex Rankings No. 1 position, spending five weeks in the top spot throughout the season. Known as one of the most consistent putters on Tour, Kerr is also an aspiring Sommelier with her own wine, Curvature, the profits of which are entirely donated to breast cancer research. Kerr has at least one win in eight of the last nine seasons and career earnings of more than $13.6 million.

Jimin Kang (-6): The 32-year-old South Korean is a two-time winner on the LPGA with nearly $2.2 million in career earnings. Her victories came at the 2005 Corning Classic and the 2010 Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. Kang has made four cuts in 2012 with a season-best tie for fifth at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

The cut was made at 3-over-par 147... Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng shot even-par 72 on Friday and is currently five shots behind the leaders… Rolex Rankings No. 5 IK Kim withdrew after the second round… Mi Jung Hur withdrew during the second round… Beatriz Recari holed a 90-yard wedge on No. 1 for eagle… Local favorite Michelle Wie shot 78-76=154 (+10) to miss the cut… Paula Creamer, the last player to win at Ko Olina, shot 67 on the second round and is currently four shots behind the leaders… First-round leader Beth Bader shot 77 on Friday…. Mariajo Uribe carded a career-low 65 in the second round.

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